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Full text of "The life of Saint Monica"

JW. tf ; - : 



bstat. 

KDWARDUS MYERS, 

Censor Dsputiihts, 



Imprimatur. 

EDM. CAN. SURMONT. 

Vicarius Gtneralis. 



WESTMONASTERII, 

die 15 Junii, 1915. 



of the Jfnith 



A SERIES OF LIVES OF THE SAINTS 
FOR YOUNG AND OLD 



SAINT MONICA 



FHE LITTLK AUGUSTINE LEARNS TO KNOW JESUS CHRIST 




THE LIFE OF 
SAINT MONICA 



BY 

F. A. FORBES 




fVITH THREE ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS BY 

FRANK ROSS MAGUIRE 



SECOND EDITION 



R. & T. WASHBOURNE, LTD. 

PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON 
AND AT MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND GLASGOW 



CONTENTS 



I. HOW ST. MONICA WAS BROUGHT UP BY 
CHRISTIAN PARENTS IN THE CITY OF 
TAGASTE i 3 

II. HOW ST. MONICA LIVED IN THE PAGAN 
HOUSEHOLD OF HER HUSBAND PATRI- 
CIUS 23 

III. HOW ST. MONICA BROUGHT UP HER CHIL 

DREN, AND HOW THE LITTLE AUGUS 
TINE FELL SICK AND DESIRED BAPTISM 33 

IV. HOW ST. MONICA BY HER GENTLENESS 

AND CHARITY WON PATRICIUS AND HIS 
MOTHER TO CHRIST 43 

V. HOW AUGUSTINE WENT TO CARTHAGE, 
AND HOW PATRICIUS DIED A CHRISTIAN 
DEATH 55 

VI. HOW ST. MONICA LIVED IN THE DAYS OF 
HER WIDOWHOOD, AND HOW SHE PUT 
ALL HER TRUST IN GOD 64 

VII. HOW ST. MONICA S HEART WAS WELL NIGH 
BROKEN BY THE NEWS THAT HER SON 
HAD ABJURED THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 7) 

7 



8 CONTENTS 



PAGE 



VIII. HOW AUGUSTINE PLANNED TO GO TO ROME, 
AND HOW HE CRUELLY DECEIVED HIS 
MOTHER 8 4 

IX. HOW AUGUSTINE CAME TO MILAN, AND 
HOW HIS TEMPEST-TOSSED SOUL FOUND 
LIGHT AND PEACE AT LAST Q4 

X. HOW ST. MONICA LIVED AT CASSIACUM 
WITH AUGUSTINE AND HIS FRIENDS, 
AND HOW AUGUSTINE WAS BAPTIZED 
BY ST. AMBROSE lo? 

XI. HOW ST. MONICA SET OUT FOR AFRICA 
WITH ST. AUGUSTINE, AND HOW SHE 
DIED AT OSTIA ON THE TIBER ng 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING PACE 

THE LITTLE AUGUSTINE LEARNS TO KNOW 
JESUS CHRIST Frontispiece 

I- . Ross Maguire. 

PATRICIUS TELLS HIS WIFE OF HIS DESIRE TO BE 

A CHRISTIAN 53 

F. Ross Maguire. 

ST. AUGUSTINE DECEIVES HIS MOTHER AND 

SAILS AWAY TO ROME 90 

F. Ross Magnire. 

" THE JOY OF THAT MOMENT WAS LIKE A FORE 
TASTE OF ETERNITY " iao 
From the picture by Ary ScLeffer. 



This book is above all things the story of a mother. But 
it is also the story of a noble woman a woman who was 
truly great, for the reason that she never sought to be so. 
Because she understood the sphere in which a woman s 
work in the world must usually lie, and led her life truly 
along the lines that God had laid down for her ; because she 
suffered bravely, forgot herself for others, and remained 
faithful to her noble ideals, she ruled as a queen amongst 
those with whom her life was cast. Her influence was great 
and far-reaching, but she herself was the last to suspect 
it, the last to desire it, and that was perhaps the secret of 
its greatness. The type is rare at the present day, but, 
thank God! there are Monicas still in the world. If there 
were more, the world would be a better place. 



CHAPTER I 

HOW ST. MONICA WAS BROUGHT UP BY CHRIS 
TIAN PARENTS IN THE CITY OF TAGASTE 

ON the sunny northern coast of Africa in the 
country which we now call Algeria stood, in 
the early days of Christianity, a city called 
Tagaste. Not far distant lay the field of 
Zama, where the glory of Hannibal had 
perished for ever. But Rome had long since 
avenged the sufferings of 1 cr bitter struggle 
with Carthage. It was the ambition of 
Roman Africa, as the new colony had been 
called by its conquerors, to be, if possible, 
more Roman than Rome. Every town had 
its baths, its theatie, its circus, its temples, 
its aqueducts. It was forbidden even to 
exiles as a place of refuge too much like 
home, said the authorities. 

It was about the middle of the fourth cen 
tury. The Church was coining forth from her 

13 



I 4 ST. MONICA 

long imprisonment into the light of day. 
The successor of Constantine, in name a 
Christian, sat on the Imperial throne. The 
old struggle with paganism, which had lasted 
for four hundred years, was nearly at an end, 
but new dangers assailed the Christian world. 
Men had found that it was easier to twist the 
truth than to deny it, and heresy and schism 
were abroad. 

In the atrium or outer court of a villa on 
the outskirts of Tagaste an old woman and 
a young girl sat together looking out into the 
dark shadows of the evening, for the hot 
African sun had sunk not long since behind 
the Numidian Mountains, and the day had 
gone out like a lamp. 

" And the holy Bishop Cyprian ?" asked 
the girl. 

" They sent him into exile," said the old 
woman, " for his father had been a Senator, 
and his family was well known and powerful. 
At that time they dared not put him to death, 
though later he, too, shed his blood for Christ. 
It was God s will that he should remain for 
many years to strengthen his flock in the trial." 



THE MARTYRS OF AFRICA 15 

" Did you ever see him, grandmother ?" 
asked the girl. 

" No," said the old woman, " it was before 
my time; but my mother knew him well. It 
was when he was a boy in Carthage and still 
a pagan that the holy martyrs Perpetua and 
Felicitas suffered with their companions. It 
was not till years after that he became a 
Christian, but it may have been their death 
that sowed the first seed in his heart." 

" Tell me," said the girl softly. It was an 
oft-told tale of which she never tired. Her 
grandmother had lived through those dark 
days of persecution, and it was the delight of 
Monica s girlhood to hear her tell the stories 
of those who had borne witness to the Faith 
in their own land of Africa. 

:( Perpetua was not much older than you," 
said the old woman. " She was of noble race 
and born of a Christian mother, though her 
father was a pagan. She was married, and 
had a little infant of a few months old. 
When she was called before the tribunal of 
Hilarion the Roman Governor, all were 
touched by her youth and beauty. Sacrifice 
to the gods/ they said, and you shall go 



16 ST. MONICA 

free. I am a Christian/ she answered, and 
nothing more would she say, press her as 
they might. 

" Her old father hastened to her side with 
the baby, and laid it in her arms. Will you 
leave your infant motherless ? he asked, 
and bring your old father s hairs in sorrow 
to the grave ? 

Have pity on the child ! cried the 
bystanders. Have pity on your father ! 

" Perpetua clasped her baby to her breast, 
and her eyes filled with tears. They thought 
she had yielded, and brought her the incense. 
Just one little grain on the brazier, they 
said, and you are free for the child s sake 
and your old father s. 

" She pushed it from her. I am a Chris 
tian, she said. * God will keep my child. 

" She was condemned with her companions 
to be thrown to the wild beasts in the amphi 
theatre, and they were taken away and cast 
into a dark dungeon. Every day they were 
tempted with promises of freedom to renounce 
the Truth. The little babe of Felicitas was 
born in the prison where they lay awaiting 
death. A Christian woman took the infant 



THE MARTYRS OF AFRICA i; 

to bring it up in the Faith. The young 
mother never saw the face of her child in 
this world. One word, one little motion of 
the hand, and they were free, restored again 
to their happy life of old and the homes that 
were so dear. There were many, alas 1 in 
those cruel days who had not courage for the 
fight, who sacrificed, and went their way. 
Not so these weak women. 

" Once again they brought Perpetua her 
little child to try to shake her constancy. 
The prison was like a palace, she said, while 
its little downy head lay on her breast. Her 
father wept, and even struck her in his grief 
and anger. I am a Christian, she said, and 
gave him back the babe. 

" They were thrown to the wild beasts. 
Felicitas and Perpetua, who had been tossed 
by a wild cow, though horribly gored, were 
still alive. Gladiators were summoned to 
behead them. Felicitas died at the first 
stroke, but the man s hand trembled, and he 
struck at Perpetua again and again, wounding 
her, but not mortally. You are more 
afraid than I, she said gently, and taking the 
point of the sword held it to her throat. 



i8 ST. MONICA 

Strike now/ she said, and so passed into the 
presence of her G(A." 

Monica drew a long breath. 

" So weak and yet so strong," she said. 

" So it is, my child/ said the old woman. 
"It is those who are strong and true in the 
little things of life who are strong and true 
in the great trials." 

" It is hard to be always strong and true/" 
said the girl. 

" Not if God s love comes always first/ 
answered the old woman. 

Monica was silent. She was thinking of 
her own young life, and how, with all the 
safeguards of a Christian home about her, she 
had narrowly escaped a great danger. From 
her babyhood she had been brought up by 
her father s old nurse not over- tenderly 
pcrhn.ps, but wisely, for the city of Tagaste 
was largely pagan in its habits, and the 
faithful old servant knew well what tempta 
tions would surround her nursling in later 
years. Monica, though full of life and spirit, 
had common sense and judgment beyond her 
years. She had also a great love of God and 
of all that belonged to His holy service, and 



A LIFE S LESSON 19 

would spend hours kneeling in the church in 
a quiet corner. It was there she brought all 
her childish troubles and her childish hopes; 
it was to the invisible Friend in the sanctuary 
that she confided all the secrets of her young 
heart, and, above all, that desire to suffer for 
Him and for His Church with which the 
stories of the martyrs had inspired her. 
When the time slipped away too fast, and 
she returned home late, she accepted humbly 
the correction that awaited her, for she knew 
that she had disobeyed although uninten 
tionally her nurse s orders. 

Monica had been wilfully disobedient once, 
and all her life long she would never forget 
the lesson her disobedience had taught her. 
It was a rule of her old nurse that she should 
take nothing to drink between meals, even in 
the hot days of summer in that sultry climate. 
If she had not courage to bear so slight a 
mortification as that, the old woman would 
argue, it would go ill with her in the greater 
trials of life. Monica had become used to 
the habit, but when she was old enough to 
begin to learn the duties of housekeeping her 
mother had desired that she should go every 



20 ST. MONICA 

day to the cellar to draw the wine for the 
midday meal. A maid-servant went with her 
to carry the flagon, and the child, feeling 
delightfully important, filled and refilled the 
little cup which was used to draw the wine 
from the cask and emptied it carefully into 
the wine-jar. When all was finished, a few 
drops remaining in the cup, a spirit of mis 
chief took sudden possession of Monica, and 
she drained it off, making a wry face as she 
did so at the strange taste. The maid-servant 
laughed, and continued to laugh when the 
performance was repeated the next day and 
the day after. The strange taste became 
gradually less strange and less unpleasant to 
the young girl; daily a few drops were added, 
until at last, scarcely thinking what she did, 
she would drink nearly the fill of the little 
cup, while the servant laughed as of old. 

But Monica was quick and intelligent, and 
was learning her household duties well. 
Finding one day that a piece of work which 
fell to the lot of the maid who went with her 
to the wine-cellar was very badly done, she 
reproved her severely. The woman turned on 
her young mistress angrily. 



A LIFE S LESSON 21 

" It is not for a wine-bibber like you to 
find fault with me," she retorted. 

Monica stood horrified. The woman s 
insolent word had torn the veil from her 
eyes. Whither was she drifting ? Into what 
depths might that one act of disobedience so 
lightly committed have led her had not God 
in His mercy intervened ? She never touched 
wine for the rest of her life unless largely 
diluted with water. God had taught her 
that " he who despises small things shall fall 
by little and little," and Monica had learnt 
her lesson. She had learnt to distrust her 
self, and self-distrust makes one marvellously 
gentle with others; she had learnt, too, to 
put her trust in God, and trust in God makes 
one marvellously strong. She had been 
taught to love the poor and the suffering, 
and to serve them at her own expense and 
inconvenience, and the service of others 
makes one unselfish. God had work for 
Monica to do in His world, as He has for 
us all if we will only do it, and He had given 
her what was needful for her task. 

That night on the way to her chamber, as 
the young girl passed the place where she had 



22 ST. MONICA 

s it with her grandmother earlier in the day, 
she paused a moment and looked out between 
the tall pillars into the starlit night, where 
the palm-trees stood like dark shadows 
against the deep, deep blue of the sky. She 
clasped her hands, and her lips moved in 
prayer. " Oh God/ she murmured, " to 
suffer for Thee and for Thy Faith I" God 
heard the whispered prayer, and answered it 
later. There is a living martyrdom as painful 
and as bitter as death, and Monica was called 
to taste it. 



CHAPTER II 

HOW ST. MONICA LIVED IN THE PAGAN HOUSE 
HOLD OF HER HUSBAND PATKICIUS 

ALTHOUGH there were many Christians in 
Roman Africa, pagan manners and customs 
still survived in many of her cities. The 
people clung to their games in the circus, the 
cruel and bloody combats of the arena, 
which, though forbidden by Constantine, 
were still winked at by provincial governors 
They scarcely pretended to believe in their 
religion, but they held to the old pagan 
festivals, which enabled them to enjoy them 
selves without restraint under pretence of 
honouring the gods. The paganism of the 
fourth centuiy, with its motto, " Let us eat, 
drink, and be merry," imposed no self-denial; 
it was therefore bound to be popular. 

But unrestrained human nature is a danger 
ous thing. If men are content to live as the 

23 



24 ST. MONICA 

beasts that perish, they fall as far below 
their level as God meant them to rise above 
it, and the Roman Empire was falling to 
pieces through its own corruption. In Africa 
the worship of the old Punic gods, to whom 
living children used to be offered in sacrifice, 
had still its votaries, and priests of Saturn 
and Astarte, with their long hair and painted 
faces and scarlet robes, were still to be met 
dancing madly in procession through the 
streets of Carthage. 

The various heretical sects had their 
preachers everywhere, proclaiming that there 
were much easier ways of serving Christ than 
that taught by the Catholic Church. It was 
hard for the Christian bishops to keep their 
flocks untainted, for there were enemies on 
every side. 

When Monica was twenty-two years old 
her parents gave her in marriage to a citizen 
of Tagaste called Patricius. He held a good 
position in the town, for he belonged to a 
family which, though poor, was noble. 
Monica knew little of her future husband, 
save that he was nearly twice her age and a 
pagan, but it was the custom for parents to 



BETROTHAL 25 

arrange all such matters, and she had only 
to obey. 

A little surprise was perhaps felt in Tagaste 
that such good Christians should choose a 
pagan husband for their beautiful daughter, 
but it \vas found impossible to shake their 
hopeful views for the future. When it was 
objected that Patricius was well known for 
his violent temper even amongst his own 
associates, they answered that he would learn 
gentleness when he became a Christian. That 
things might go hard with their daughter in 
the meantime they did not seem to foresee. 

Monica took her new trouble where she 
had been used to take the old. Kneeling in 
her favourite corner in the church, she asked 
help and counsel of the Friend Who never 
fails. She had had her girlish ideals of love 
and marriage. She had dreamt of a strong 
arm on which she could lean, of a heart and 
soul that would be at one with her in all 
that was most dear, of two lives spent to 
gether in God s love and service. And now 
it seemed that it was she who would have to 
be strong for both; to strive and to suffer to 
bring her husband s soul out of darkness 



26 ST. MONICA 

into the light of truth. Would she succeed ? 
And if not, what would be that married life 
which lay before her ? She did not dare to 
think. She must not fail and yet. . . . 
" Thou in me, Lord/ she prayed again and 
again through her tears. 

It was late when she made her way home 
wards, and that night, kneeling at her bed 
side, she laid the ideals of her girlhood at the 
feet of Him Who lets no sacrifice, however 
small, go unrewarded. She would be true to 
this new trust, she resolved, cost what it might. 

Things certainly did not promise w ? ell for 
the young bride s happiness. Patricius lived 
with his mother, a woman of strong passions 
like himself, and devoted to her son. She 
was bitterly jealous of the young girl who 
had stolen his affections, and had made up 
her mind to dislike her. The slaves of the 
household followed, of course, their mis 
tress s lead, and tried to please her by invent 
ing stories against Monica. 

Patricius, who loved his young wife with 
the only kind of love of which he was capable, 
had nothing in common with her, and had 
no clue to her thoughts or actions. He had 



A PAGAN HOUSEHOLD 27 

neither reverence nor respect for women 
indeed, most of the women of his acquaint 
ance were deserving of neither and he had 
chosen Monica for her beauty, much as he 
would have chosen a horse or a dog. He 
thought her ways and ideas extraordinary. 
She took as kindly an interest in the slaves 
as if they had been of her own flesh and 
blood, and would even intercede to spare 
them a beating. She liked the poor, and 
would gather these dirty and unpleasant 
people about her, going so far even as to wash 
and dress their sores. Patricius did not share 
her attraction, and objected strongly to such 
proceedings; but Monica pleaded so humbly 
and sweetly that he gave way, and let her 
do what seemed to cause her so much pleasure. 
There was no accounting for tastes," he 
remarked. She would spend hours in the 
church praying, with her great eyes fixed 
on the altar. True, she was never there at 
any time when she was likely to be missed 
by her husband, and never was she so full 
of tender affection for him as when she came 
home; but still, it was a strange way of 
spending one s time. 



28 ST. MONICA 

There was something about Monica, it is 
true, that was altogether unlike any other 
inmate of the house, as she went about her 
daily duties, always watching for the chance 
of doing a kind action. 

When Patricius was in one of his violent 
tempers, shouting, abusing, and even striking 
everybody who came in his way, she would 
look at him with gentle eyes that showed 
neither fear nor anger. She never answered 
sharply, even though his rude words wounded 
her cruelly. He had once raised his hand 
to strike her, but he had not dared; some 
thing he did not know what withheld 
him. 

Later, when his anger had subsided, and 
he was perhaps a little ashamed of his violence, 
she would meet him with an affectionate 
smile, forgiving and forgetting all. Only if 
he spoke himself, and, touched at her gene 
rous forbearance, tried shamefacedly to make 
amends for his treatment of her, would she 
gently explain her conduct. More often she 
said nothing, knowing that actions speak 
more loudly than words. As her greatest 
biographer says of her: " She spoke little, 



GOOD FOR EVIL 29 

preached not at all, loved much, and prayed 
unceasingly." 

When the young wives of her acquaintance, 
married like herself to pagan husbands, com 
plained of the insults and even blows which 
they had to bear, " Are you sure your own 
tongue is not to blame ?" she would ask 
them laughingly; and then with ready sym 
pathy would do all she could to help and com 
fort and advise. They would ask her secret, 
for everyone knew that, in spite of the vio 
lence of Patricius s temper, he treated her with 
something that almost approached respect. 
Then she would bid them be patient, and 
love and pray, and meet harshness with 
gentleness, and abuse with silence. And when 
they sometimes answered that it would seem 
weak to knock under in such a fashion, 
Monica would ask them if they thought it 
needed more strength to speak or to be silent 
when provoked, and which was easier, to 
smile or to sulk when insulted ? Many homes 
were happier in consequence, for Monica had 
a particular gift for making peace, and even 
as a child had settled the quarrels of her 
young companions to everybody s satisfaction. 



30 ST. MONICA 

To the outside world Patricius s young wife 
seemed contented and happy. She managed 
her affairs well, people said, and no one but 
God knew of the suffering that was her secret 
and His. Brought up in the peace and 
piety of a Christian family, she had had no 
idea of the miseries of paganism. Now she 
had ample opportunity to study the effects 
of unchecked selfishness and of uncontrolled 
passions; to see how low human nature, un 
restrained by faith and love, could fall. Her 
mother-in-law treated her with suspicion and 
dislike, for the slaves, never weary of invent 
ing fresh stones against her, misrepresented 
all her actions to their mistress. Monica did 
not seem to notice unkindness, repaying the 
many insults she received with little services 
tactfully rendered, but she felt it deeply. 

" They do not know," she would say to 
herself, and pray for them all the more 
earnestly, offering her sufferings for these 
poor souls who were so far from the peace of 
Christ. How was the light to come to them 
if not through her ? How could they learn 
to love Christ unless they learned to love His 
servants and to see Him in them ? The 



" THOU IN ME " 31 

revelation must come through her, if it was 
to come at all. " Thou in me, O Lord/ 
she would pray, and draw strength and 
courage at His feet for the daily suffering. 

The heart of Patricius was like a neglected 
garden. Germs of generosity, of nobility, lay 
hidden under a rank growth of weeds that no 
one had ever been at any trouble to clear 
away. The habits of a lifetime held him cap 
tive. With Monica he was always at his best, 
but he grew weary of being at his best. It 
was so much easier to be at his worst. He 
gradually began to seek distractions amongst 
his old pagan companions in the old ignoble 
pleasures. 

The whole town began to talk of his neglect 
of his beautiful young wife. Monica suffered 
cruelly, but in silence. When he was at 
home, which was but seldom, she was serene 
and gentle as usual. She never reproached 
him, and treated him with the same tender 
deference as of old. Patricius felt the charm 
of her presence; all that was good in him 
responded; but evil habits had gone far 
to stifle the good, and his lower nature 
cried out for base enjoyments He was not 



32 ST. MONICA 

strong enough to break the chain which held 
him. 

So Monica wept and prayed in secret, and 
God sent a ray of sunshine to brighten her 
sad life. Three children were born to her 
during the early years of her marriage. The 
name of Augustine, her eldest son, will be 
for ever associated with that of his mother. 
Of the other two, Navigius and Perpetua his 
sister, we know little. Navigius, delicate in 
health, was of a gentle and pious nature. 
Both he and Perpetua married, but the latter 
after her husband s death entered a monas 
tery. With her younger children Monica 
had no trouble; it was the eldest, Augustine, 
who, after having been for long the son of 
her sorrow and of her prayers, was destined 
to be at last her glory and her joy. 



CHAPTER III 

HOW ST. MONICA BROUGHT UP HER CHILDREN, 
AND HOW THE LITTLE AUGUSTINE FELL 
SICK AND DESIRED BAPTISM 

As soon as the little Augustine was born, his 
mother had him taken to the Christian 
Church, that the sign of the Cross might be 
made on his forehead, and that he might be 
entered amongst the catechumens. It was a 
custom of the time never approved of by the 
Church to pat off Baptism until the catechu 
men had shown himself able to withstand 
the tempations of the half-pagan society in 
the midst of which he had to live. Through 
this mistaken idea of reverence for the Sacra 
ment the young soldier of Christ, lest he 
should tarnish his weapons in the fight, was 
sent unarmed into a conflict in which he 
needed all the strength which the Sacraments 
alone can give. 

33 c 



34 ST. MONICA 

The outlook for Monica, with her pagan 
husband and her pagan household, was 
darker than for most Christian mothers. Her 
heart grew heavy within her as she held her 
young son in her arms and thought of the 
future. For the present indeed he was hers; 
but later, when she could no longer keep him 
at her side and surround him with a mother s 
love and protection, what dangers would 
beset him ?, The influence of an unbelieving 
father, during the years when his boyish ideas 
of life would be forming ; a household 
that knew not Christ how could he pass 
untouched through the dangers that would 
assail his young soul ? With prayers and 
tears, Monica bent over the unconscious little 
head that lay so peacefully upon her breast, 
commending her babe to the Heavenly Father 
to Whom all things are possible. 

Augustine drank in the love of Christ with 
his mother s milk, he tells us. As soon as he 
could speak, she taught him to lisp a prayer. 
As soon as he could understand, she taught 
him, in language suited to his childish sense, 
the great truths of the Christian Faith. He 
would listen eagerly, and, standing at his 



MOTHER AND SON 35 

mother s knee, or nestling in her arms, follow 
the sweet voice that could make the highest 
things so simple to his childish understanding. 
It was the seed-time that was later to 
bear such glorious fruit, though the long days 
of winter Ir.y between. The boy was thought 
ful and intelligent; he loved all that was 
great and good and noble. The loathing of 
what was mean and base and unlovely, 
breathed into him by his mother in those 
days of early childhood, haunted him even 
during his worst moments in later life. The 
cry that burst from his soul in manhood when 
he had drunk deeply of the cup of earthly 
joys and found it bitter and unsatisfying had 
its origin in those early teachings. " Thou 
hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our 
hearts can find no rest until they rest in 
Thee." 

One day, when the child was about seven 
years old, he was suddenly seized with sick 
ness. He was in great pain, and soon be 
came so ill that his life was in danger. His 
parents were in anguish, but Augustine s 
one thought was for his soul; he begged and 
prayed that he might receive Baptism. 



36 ST. MONICA 

Monica added her entreaties to his. Patri- 
cius yielded. All was prepared, when the 
child suddenly got better. Then someone 
intervened, probably his father, for Augus 
tine tells us that the Baptism was put off 
again indefinitely. 

But it was time to think of the boy s 
education, and it was proposed to send him 
to school in Tagaste. It was a pagan school 
to which the child must go, pagan authors 
that he must study, and, worse than all, 
pagan conversation that he must hear and 
pagan playmates with whom he must asso 
ciate. 

Patricius was proud of the beauty and the 
intelligence of his little son, and hoped great 
things for the future; but Augustine s early 
school-days were far from brilliant. Eager as 
the boy was to learn what interested him, he 
had an insurmountable dislike to anything 
that caused him trouble. It bored him to 
learn to read and write, and the uninspiring 
truth that two and two make four was a weari 
ness of the flesh to him. Though the stories 
of Virgil enchanted him, Homer he never 
thoroughly enjoyed nor quite forgave, for 



AUGUSTINE S EDUCATION 37 

had he not for his sake been forced to wade 
through the chilly waters of the Greek 
grammar ? 

Unfortunately for Augustine, such dismal 
truths as two and two make four have to 
be mastered before higher nights can be at 
tempted. The Tagaste schoolmasters had 
but one way of sharpening their scholars 
zeal for learning the liberal use of the 
rod. 

Now, Augustine disliked beatings as much 
as he disliked all other unpleasant things, 
but he also disliked work. The only way of 
evading both disagreeables was to follow the 
example of the greater number of his fellow- 
scholars to play when he should have been 
working, and to tell clever lies to his school 
masters and his parents in order to escape 
punishment. Such tricks, however, are bound 
to be found out sooner or later, and Monica, 
realizing that much could be got out of her 
son by love, but little by fear, took him for 
a course of instruction to the Christian 
priests, that he might learn to overcome 
himself for the love of God. 

As a result Augustine took more earnestly 



38 ST. MONICA 

to his prayers, asking, above all, however, that 
he might not be beaten at school. His mother, 
finding him one day praying in a quiet corner 
to this intent, suggested that if he had learnt 
his lessons for the day he need have no fear, 
but if he had not, punishment was to be ex 
pected. Patricius, who was passing and over 
heard the conversation, laughed at his son s 
fears and agreed with his wife. Augustine 
thought them both exceedingly heartless. 

As the boy grew older, however, his wonder 
ful gifts began to show themselves, and his 
masters, seeing of what he was really capable, 
punished him yet more severely when he was 
idle. Augustine, too, began to take pride 
in his own success, and to wish to be first 
amongst his young companions. The latter 
cheated as a matter of course, both in work 
and at play. Bad habits are catching, and 
Augustine would sometimes cheat too. When 
found out he would fly into a passion, although 
no one was so severe on the dishonesty of 
others as he. And yet, though he would 
often yield to the temptations that were the 
hardest for his pleasure-loving nature to 
resist, there was much that was good in the 



MADAURA 39 

boy. He had a faithful and loving heart, an 
attraction for all that was great and noble. 
He was, in fact, his mother s son as well as 
his father s; the tares and the wheat were 
sprouting side by side. 

But Augustine was rapidly growing out of 
childhood. Patricius, prouder than ever of 
his clever son, resolved to spare no pains to 
give him the best education that his means 
could procure. The boy had a great gift of 
eloquence, said his masters, and much 
judgment; he would be certain to succeed 
brilliantly at the Bar. It was decided to 
send him to Madaura, a town about twenty 
miles distant, a good deal larger than Tagaste, 
and well known for its culture and its schools. 
It was one of the most pagan of the cities of 
Africa, but this was an objection that had 
no weight with Patricius, although it meant 
much to Monica. The only comfort for her 
in the thought of this first separation was 
that there at least her son would not be far 
from home. Not far away in truth, as 
distance goes, but how far away in spirit ! 

Madaura was a large and handsome city, 
with a circus and theatre, and a fine forum, 



40 ST. MONICA 

or market-place, set round with statues of 
the gods. It was proud of its reputation 
for learning, but had little else to be proud of. 
Its professors were men who were more 
ashamed of being detected in a fault of style 
than in the grossest crimes, who were ashamed 
indeed of nothing else. The pagan gods were 
held up to their scholars as models for 
admiration and imitation. 

It was a poor ideal at the best. The gods 
were represented by the great pagan poets 
and authors as no better, if more powerful, 
than ordinary mortals. They were subject 
to all the meannesses and all the baseness 
of the least noble of their worshippers. That 
their adventures, neither moral nor ele 
vating, were told in the most exquisite lan 
guage by the greatest authors of antiquity 
rather added to the danger than decreased 
it. True, the noblest of the classical writers 
broke away continually from the bondage 
which held them, to stretch out groping hands 
towards the eternal truth and beauty into 
which real genius must always have some 
insight, but not all were noble. 

The students of Madaura were worthy of 



4* 

their masters. Nothing was too shameful to 
be talked about, if only it were talked about 
in well-turned phrases. The plays acted in 
the theatre were what might be expected in 
Roman society of the fourth century that 
society from which St. Anthony and St. 
Jerome had been forced to flee to the desert 
in order to save their souls. 

Augustine won golden opinions from his 
masters for his quickness and intelligence. 
They thought of nothing else but of culti 
vating the minds of their scholars. Heart 
and soul were left untouched, or touched in 
such a way that evil sprang to life and good 
was stifled. He was a genius, they cried, a 
budding rhetorician, a poet. 

Although masters and scholars alike ap 
plauded him, Augustine, while he drank their 
praises greedily, was restless and unhappy. 
He had gone down before the subtle tempta 
tions of Madaura like corn before the scythe. 
First evil thoughts, but carelessly resisted; 
then evil deeds. He had lost his childish 
innocence, and with it his childish happiness. 
For he knew too much, and was too noble 
of nature to be content with what was 



42 ST. MONICA 

ignoble. The seeds of his mother s teaching 
were yet alive within him. 

And Monica ? Only twenty miles away 
at Tagaste she was praying for her son, be 
seeching the Heavenly Father to keep him 
from evil, to watch over him now that she 
was no longer at his side, hoping and trusting 
that all was well with her boy. 



CHAPTER IV 

HOW ST. MONICA BY HER GENTLENESS AND 
CHARITY WON PATRICIUS AND HIS MOTHER 
TO CHRIST 

OF all the hidden forces in the world perhaps 
the most mysterious is what we call " in 
fluence." For good or for evil, to a lesser or 
a greater degree, it goes out from each one 
of us, and has its effect on all with whom we 
come in contact. It is like a subtle breath 
that braces the spirit to good, or relaxes it to 
evil, but never leaves it untouched or un 
moved. " No man liveth to himself alone/ 
said St. Paul, who had many opportunities 
of watching the workings of that mysterious 
force in the world and of studying its effects. 
According as we follow our best and noblest 
instincts, or, to use a homely but vivid 
phrase, let ourselves go, consciously or un 
consciously, we give an upward lift or a 

43 



44 ST. MONICA 

downward push to all who come in contact 
with us. Happily for us all, God does not 
ask of us attainment, but effort, and earnest 
effort is the simple secret of healthy influence. 

Monica, it is true, was a Saint, but a Saint 
in the making. Saints are not born ready- 
made ; holiness is a beautiful thing that is built 
up stone by stone, not brought into being by 
the touch of the enchanter s wand. 

During the years that had p issed since 
Patricius had brought his young wife home 
to his mother s house, she would have been 
the first to confess how far she had fallen 
short of the ideal she had set herself to 
attain. And yet there had been ceaseless 
effort, ceaseless prayer, unwearying love and 
patience. Outwardly all seemed as usual, 
but the hidden force had been doing its 
work in secret as it always does. 

The mother of Patricius was growing old; 
she was neither so active nor so strong as she 
had been. What had used to be easy to her 
was becoming difficult. It galled her inde 
pendent spirit to be obliged to ask help of 
others. Monica, reading her heart as only 
the unselfish can, saw this and understood. 



LIGHT AT LAST 45 

At every moment the older woman would 
find that some Jittle service had been done 
by unseen hands, some little thoughtful act 
that made things easier for the tired old 
limbs. There was someone who seemed to 
know and understand what she wanted 
almost before she did herself. 

Who could it be ? Not the slaves, cer 
tainly. They did their duty for fear of being 
beaten, but that was all. It was all, indeed, 
that was expected of them. Not Patricius, 
either; it was not his way, he never thought 
of such things. It could therefore be no one 
but Monica. 

The old woman mused deeply. She had 
treated her daughter-in-law harshly and un 
kindly during all these years. She had 
looked upon her as an intruder. But then, 
the slaves had told her unpleasant stories of 
their young mistress; it was only what she 
deserved. And yet. ... It was hard to 
think of those ugly tales in connection with 
Monica as she herself knew her as she had 
seen her day by day since she came first, a 
young bride, to her husband s home. 

Again, how had Monica repaid her for her 



46 ST. MONICA 

unkindness ? With never-failing charity and 
sweetness, with gentle respect and deference 
to her wishes, never trying to assert herself, 
never appealing to her husband to give her 
the place which of right belonged to her. 
She had been content to be treated as the 
last in the house. 

The old woman sat lost in thought. What 
would the house be like, she suddenly asked 
herself, without that gentle presence ? What 
would she do, what would they all do, without 
Monica ? With a sudden pang of sorrow 
she realized how much she leant upon her 
daughter-in-law, what her life would be 
without her. She considered the matter in 
this new light. She was a woman of strong 
passions but of sound common sense; reason 
was beginning to triumph over prejudice. 

Sending for the slaves, she questioned them 
sharply as to the tales they had told her 
about their young mistress. They faltered, 
contradicted each other and themselves in 
the end confessed that they had lied. 

The old lady went straight to her son, and 
told him the whole story. Patricius was not 
one to take half measures in such a matter. 



THE FIRST FRUITS 47 

Not even the prayers of Monica, all uncon 
scious of the particular offence they had 
committed, availed to save the culprits. 
They were as soundly beaten as they had 
ever been in their lives, after which they 
were told that they knew what to expect if 
they ever breathed another word against 
their young mistress again. As it happened, 
they had no desire to do so. The hidden 
forces had been working there too. Monica s 
kindness, her sympathy with their joys and 
sorrows to them something strange and 
new had already touched their hearts. 
More than once they had been sorry for ever 
having spoken against her; they had felt 
ashamed in her presence. 

Justice having been done on the slaves, the 
mother of Patricius sought out her daughter- 
in-law, told her frankly that she had been 
in the wrong, and asked her forgiveness. 
Monica clasped the old woman in her arms 
and refused to listen. From that moment 
they were the truest of friends. 

There were many things to be spoken of, 
but first religion. Monica had revealed her 
Faith by her life, her daily actions, and to 



48 ST. MONICA 

the oilier it was a beautiful and alluring 
revelation. She wanted to know, to under 
stand; she listened eagerly to Monica s ex 
planations. 

It W 7 as a message of new life, of hope beyond 
the grave, of joy, of peace; she begged to be 
received as a catechumen. It was not long 
before she knelt at Monica s side before the 
altar to be signed on the brow with the Cross 
of Christ the joyous first-fruits of the seed 
that had been sown in tears. 

One by one the slaves followed their mis 
tress s example, hungering in their turn for 
the message that brought such peace and 
light to suffering and weary souls. Was it 
for such as they ? they asked. And Monica 
answered that it was for all, that the Master 
Himself had chosen to be as One that 
served. 

The whole household was Christian now, 
with the exception of Patricius, and even he 
was growing daily more gentle, more thought 
ful; the mysterious forces were working on 
him too. His love for Monica was more 
reverent; his eyes were opening slowly to 
the beauty of spiritual things. The old life, 



AUGUSTINE S FUTURE 49 

with its old pleasures, was growing distasteful 
to him; he saw its baseness while as yet he 
could scarcely tear himself free from its 
fetters the fetters of old habit so hard to 
break. He noticed the change in his mother, 
and half-envied her her courage. He even 
envied the slaves their happy faces, the new 
light that shone in their eyes and that gave 
them a strange new dignity. 

Monica, watching the struggle, redoubled 
her prayers; her unsellish love surrounded 
her husband like an atmosphere of light and 
sweetness, drawing him with an invincible 
power to better things. She would speak to 
him of their children above all, of Augustine, 
their eldest-born, the admiration of his 
masters at Madaura. He was astonishing 
everybody, they wrote, by his brilliant gifts. 
He had the soul of a poet and the eloquence 
of an orator; he would do great things. 

Madaura had been all very well up till now, 
his father decided, but everything must be 
done to give their boy a good start in life; 
they must go farther afield. Rome was 
impossible; the distance was too great and 
the expense too heavy. Patricius s means 



50 ST. MONICA 

were, limited, but he resolved to do his utmost 
for his eldest son. Carthage had a reputation 
for culture and for learning that was second 
only to that of Rome. If strict economy 
were practised at home, Carthage might be 
possible. In the meantime it was not much 
use leaving the boy at Madaura. Let him 
come home and remain there a year, during 
which he could study privately while they 
saved the money to pay his expenses at 
Carthage. 

The suggestion delighted Monica. She 
would have her son with her for a whole 
year. She would be able to watch over him 
just when he needed her motherly care; she 
looked forward eagerly to Augustine s return. 
The old, intimate life they had led together 
before he went to Madaura would begin 
again. Again her boy would hang on her 
arm and tell her all his hopes and dreams for 
the future hopes and dreams into which ghe 
always entered, of which she was always 
part. She would look once more into the 
boy s clear eyes while he confessed to her his 
faults and failings, and see the light flame 
up in them as she told him of noble and 



THE NEW SORROW 51 

heroic deeds, arid urged him to be true to his 
ideals. 

And so in happy dreams the days went 
past until Augustine s return; but there was 
bitter grief in store for Monica. This was not 
the same Augustine that they had left at 
Madaura two years ago. The days of the 
old familiar friendship seemed to have gone 
past recall. His eyes no longer turned to 
her with the old candour; he shunned her 
questioning look. He shunned her company 
even, and seemed more at ease with his 
father, who was proud beyond words of his 
tall, handsome son. 

He was all right, said Patricius; he was 
growing up, that was all. Boys could not 
always be tied to their mother s apron- 
strings. The moment that Monica had so 
dreaded for Augustine had come then; the 
pagan influences had been at work. Oh, 
why had she let him go to Madaura ? And 
yet it had to be so; his father had insisted. 

She made several efforts to break through 
the wall of reserve that Augustine had built 
up between himself and her, but it was of no 
use. He had other plans now into which 



52 ST. MONICA 

she did not enter, other thoughts far away 
how far away ! from hers. A dark cloud 
was between them. 

One day she persuaded her son to go out 
with her. The spring had just come that 
wonderful African spring when the whole 
world seems suddenly to burst into flower. 
Asphodels stood knee-deep on either side of 
the path in which they walked; the fragrance 
of the springtime was in their nostrils; the 
golden sunlight bathed the rainbow earth. 
It was a walk that they had loved to take of 
old, to delight together in all the beauty of 
that world which God had made. 

Monica spoke gently to her son of the new 
life that lay before him, of the dangers that 
beset his path. He must hold fast to the 
Law of Christ, she told him; he must be pure 
and strong and true. 

There was no answering gleam as of old. 
The boy listened with a bad grace shame 
and honour were tugging at his heart-strings, 
but in vain. The better self Was defeated, for 
the lower self was growing stronger every day. 

" Woman s talk," he said to himself. " I 
am no longer a child/ 




PATKICIUS TELLS HIS WIFE OF HIS DESIRE TO BE A CHRISTIAN. 

To face p. 



THE NEW JOY 53 

They turned back through the glorious 
sights and sounds of the springtime; there 
was a dagger in Monica s heart. On the 
threshold she met Patricius. He wanted to 
speak to her, he said. She slipped her arm 
into his, smiling through her pain, and they 
went back again, between the nodding 
asphodels and the hedges of wisteria, along 
the path she had just trodden with her son. 

There was an unwonted seriousness about 
Patricius. He had been thinking deeply of 
late, he told her. He had begun to see 
things in a new light. It was dim as yet, 
and he was still weak ; but the old life and the 
old religion had grown hateful to him. Her 
God was the true God; he wanted to know 
how to love and serve that God of hers. 
Was he fit, did she think, to learn ? Could 
he be received as a catechumen ? 

The new joy fell like balm on the new 
sorrow. Monica had lost her son, but gained 
her husband. God was good. He had heard 
her prayers, He had accepted her sacrifice. 
Surely He would give her back her boy. She 
would trust on and hope. " He will withhold 
no good thing from them that ak Him." 



54 ST. MONICA 

A few days later Patricius knelt beside her 
at the altar. Her heart overflowed with joy 
and thankfulness. They were one at last 
one in soul, in faith. A few steps distant 
knelt Augustine. What thoughts were in his 
heart ? Was it the last struggle between 
good and evil ? Was the influence of his 
mother, the love of Christ she had instilled 
into him in his childhood, making one last 
stand against the influences that had swayed 
him in Madaura that still swayed him the 
influences of the corrupt world in which he 
lived ? We do not know. If it was so, the 
evil triumphed. 



CHAPTER V 

HOW AUGUSTINE WENT TO CARTHAGE, AND 
HOW PATRICIUS DIED A CHRISTIAN DEATH 

AUGUSTINE S year at home did not do for 
him what Monica had hoped. His old pagan 
schoolfellows gathered round him; he was 
always with them ; the happy home-life 
seemed to have lost its charm. The want 
of principle and of honour in most of them 
disgusted him in his better moments; never 
theless he was content to enjoy himself in 
their company. He was even ashamed, when 
they boasted of their misdoings, to seem more 
innocent than they, and would pretend to be 
worse than he really was, lest his prestige 
should suffer in their eyes. There were 
moments when he loathed it all, and longed 
for the old life, with its innocent pleasures; 
but it is hard to turn back on the downhill 
road. 

55 



56 ST. MONICA 

He tells us how he went one night with a 
band of these wild companions to rob the 
fruit-tree of a poor neighbour. It was laden 
with pears, but they were not very good ; they 
did not care to eat them, and threw them to 
the pigs. It was not schoolboy greed that 
prompted the theft, but the pure delight of 
doing evil, of tricking the owner of the garden. 
There was the wild excitement, too, of the 
daring; the fear that they might be caught 
in the act. He was careful to keep such 
escapades a secret from his mother, but 
Monica was uneasy, knowing what might be 
expected from the companions her son had 
chosen. 

Patricius was altogether unable to give 
Augustine the help that he needed. The 
Christian ideals of life and conduct were new 
to him as yet; the old pagan ways seemed 
only natural. He was scarcely likely to be 
astonished at the fact that his son s boyhood 
was rather like what his own had been. He 
was standing, it is true, on the threshold of the 
Church, but her teaching was not yet clear to 
him. His own feet were not firm enough in 



THE CHARITY OF CHRIST 57 

the ways of Christ to enable him to stretch 
a steadying hand to another. 

His mother was failing fast; the end could 
not be far off. Monica was devoting herself 
heart and soul to the old woman, who clung 
to her with tender affection, and was never 
happy in her absence. 

Patricius watched them together, and mar 
velled at the effects of the grace of Baptism. 
Was that indeed his mother, he asked him 
self, that gentle, patient old woman, so 
thoughtful for others, so ready to give up her 
own will ? She had used to be violent and 
headstrong like himself, resentful and im 
placable in her dislikes, but now she was more 
like Monica than like him. That was Mon 
ica s way, though; her sweetness and patience 
seemed to be catching. She was like the 
sunshine, penetrating everywhere with its 
light and warmth. He, alas ! was far behind 
his mother. Catechumen though he was, the 
old temper would often flash out still. Self- 
conquest was the hardest task that he had 
ever undertaken, and sometimes he almost 
lost heart, and was inclined to give it up 



58 ST. MONICA 

altogether. Then Monica would gently re 
mind him that with God s help the hardest 
things were possible, and they would kneel 
and pray together, and Patricius would take 
heart again for the fight. She had a won 
derful gift for giving people courage ; Patricius 
had noticed that before. He supposed it 
was because she was so full of sympathy, 
and always made allowances. And then she 
seemed to think to be sure, even that if 
one went on trying, failures did not matter, 
God did riot mind them; and that was a very 
comforting reflection for poor weak people 
like himself. To go on trying was possible 
even for him, although he knew he could not 
always promise himself success. 

Patricius was anxious about Augustine s 
future. All his efforts had not succeeded in 
saving the sum required for his first year at 
Carthage. He had discovered that it would 
cost a good deal more than he had at first 
supposed, and it was difficult to see where the 
money was to come from. 

It was at this moment that Romanianus, 
a wealthy and honourable citizen of Tagaste, 
who knew the poverty of his friend, came for- 



CARTHAGE 59 

ward generously and put his purse at Patri- 
cius s disposal. The sum req aired was offered 
with such delicacy that it could not be de 
clined. Augustine was sure to bring glory on 
his native town, said Romanianus; it was an 
honour to be allowed to help in his educa 
tion. 

Monica was almost glad to see her son 
depart. The old boyish laziness had given 
way to a real zeal for learning and thirst after 
knowledge. The idle life at home was cer 
tainly the worst thing for him. Hard work 
and the pursuit of wisdom might steady his 
wild nature and bring him back to God. It 
was her only hope now, as with prayers and 
tears she besought of Him to watch over 
her son. 

But Monica did not know Carthage. If it 
was second only to Rome for its culture and 
its schools, it almost rivalled Rome in its 
corruption. There all that was worst in the 
civilization of the East and of the West met 
and mingled. The bloody combats between 
men and beasts, the gladiatorial shows that 
delighted the Romans, were free to all 
who chose to frequent the amphitheatre of 



60 ST. MONICA 

Carthage. Such plays as the Romans de 
lighted in, impossible to describe, were acted 
in the theatre. The horrible rites of the 
Eastern religions were practised openly. 

There was neither discipline nor order in the 
schools. The wealthier students gloried in 
their bad reputation. They were young men 
of fashion who were capable of anything, and 
who were careful to let others know it. They 
went by the name of " smashers " or " up- 
setters," from their habit of raiding the 
schools of professors whose teaching they 
did not approve, and breaking everything on 
which they could lay hands. They treated 
new-comers with coarse brutality, but Augus 
tine seems in some manner to have escaped 
their enmity. Perhaps a certain dignity in 
the young man s bearing, or perhaps his 
brilliant gifts, won their respect, for he sur 
passed them all in intelligence, and speedily 
outstripped them in class. 

Augustine was eager for knowledge and 
eager for enjoyment. He frequented the 
theatre; his pleasure-loving nature snatched 
at everything that life could give; yet he 
was not happy. " My God," he cried in 



ANSWERED PRAYERS 61 

later years, " with what bitter gall didst Thou 
in Thy great mercy sprinkle those pleasures 
of mine!" He could not forget; and at 
Tagaste his mother was weeping and praying 
for her son. 

Patricius prayed with her; he understood 
at last. Every day the germs of a noble 
nature that had lain so long dormant within 
him were gaining strength and life. Every 
day his soul was opening more and more to 
the understanding of spiritual things, while 
Monica watched the transformation with a 
heart that overflowed with gratitude and love. 
The sorrows of the past were all forgotten in 
the joy of the present, that happy union at 
the feet of Christ. There was but one cause 
for sadness Patricius s health was failing. 
His mother had already shown him the joys 
of a Christian deathbed. She had passed 
away smiling, with their hands in hers, and 
the name of Jesus on her lips. The beautiful 
prayers of the Church had gone down with 
the departing soul to the threshold of 
the new life, and had followed it into 
eternity. She seemed close to them still in 
the light of that wonderful new Faith, and 



62 ST. MONICA 

to be waiting for them in their everlasting 
home. 

But Monica s happiness was to be short 
lived, for it seemed that Palricius would 
soon rejoin his mother. He did not deceive 
himself. He spoke of his approaching death 
to Monica, and asked her to help him to 
make a worthy preparation for Baptism, 
which he desired to receive as soon as possible. 
With the simplicity and trustfulness of a 
child, he looked to her for guidance, and did 
all that she desired. 

The ceremony over, he turned to his wife 
and smiled. A wonderful peace possessed 
him. The old life, with all its stains, had 
passed from him in those cleansing waters; 
the new life was at hand. Once more he 
asked her to forgive him all the pain he had 
caused her, all that he had made her suffer. 
No, she must not grieve, he told her; the 
parting would be but for a little while, the 
meeting for all eternity. She had been his 
angel, he said; he owed all his joy to her. It 
was her love, her patience, that had done it 
all. She had shown him the beauty of good 
ness and made him love it. He thanked her 



DEATH OF PATRICIUS 63 

for all that she had been to him, all that she 
had shown him, all that she had done for 
him. Her tears fell on his face, her loving 
arms supported him; her sweet voice, broken 
with weeping, spoke words of hope and com 
fort. 

On the threshold of that other world Monica 
bade farewell to her husband, and one more 
soul that she had won for Christ went out 
into a glorious eternity. 



CHAPTER VI 

HOW ST. MONICA LIVED IN THE DAYS OF HER 
WIDOWHOOD, AND HOW SHE PUT ALL HER 
TRUST IN GOD 

PATRICIUS had not much in the way of 
worldly goods to leave to his wife. She 
needed little, it is true, for herself, but there 
was Augustine. Would it be possible for her, 
even if she practised the strictest economy, 
to keep him at Carthage, where he was doing 
so well ? 

Romanianus divined her anxiety, and 
hastened to set it at rest. He had a house 
in Carthage, he said; it should be Augustine s 
as long as he required it. This would settle 
the question of lodging. For the rest, con 
tinued Romanianus, as an old friend of 
Patricius he had the right to befriend his 
son, and Monica must grant him the privilege 
of acting a father s part to Augustine until 

64 



ROMANIANUS 65 

he was fairly launched in life. He had a child 
of his own, a young son called Licentius. If 
Monica would befriend his boy, they would 
be quits. The gratitude of both mother and 
son towards this generous friend and bene 
factor lasted throughout their lives. Licen 
tius was to feel its effects more than once. 

You it was, Romanianus/ wrote Augus 
tine in his Confessions, " who, when I was a 
poor young student in Carthage, opened to 
me your house, your purse, and still more 
your heart. You it was who, when I had 
the sorrow to lose my father, comforted me 
by your friendship, helped me with your ad 
vice, and assisted me with your fortune." 

Monica mourned her husband s death with 
true devotion; but hers was not a selfish 
sorrow. She had love and sympathy for all 
who needed them, and forgot her own grief 
in solacing that of others. There were cer 
tain good works which the Church gave to 
Christian widows to perform. The hospitals, 
for instance, were entirely in their hands. 
They were small as yet, built according to 
the needs of the moment from the funds 
of the faithful, and held but few patients. 



66 ST. MONICA 

These devoted women succeeded each other 
at intervals in their task of washing and 
attending to the sick, watching by their beds 
and cleaning their rooms. Their ministra 
tions did not even cease there. With reverent 
care they prepared the dead for burial, think 
ing the while of the preparation of Christ s 
body for the tomb, and of Him who said: 
Inasmuch as ye do it to the least of My 
brethren ye do it unto Me." 

It was a h;i.ppy moment for Monica when 
her turn came to serve the sick. She would 
kiss their sores for very pity as she washed 
and dressed them, and their faces grew bright 
at her coming. They called her " mother." 
It seemed such a natural name to give her, 
for she was a mother to them all, and gave 
them a mother s love. To some of the poor 
creatures, friendless slaves as they often were, 
who had known little sympathy or tender 
ness in their hard lives, it was a revelation 
of Christianity which taught them more than 
hours of preaching could have done. 

But there was other work besides that at 
the hospital. There were the poor to be 
helped, the hungry to be fed, the naked 



A WIDOW S WORK 67 

to be clothed. She would gather the orphan 
children at her knee to teach them the 
truths of their Faith. When they were 
very poor, she would keep them in her 
own house, feed them at her own table, and 
clothe them with her own hands. "If I am 
a mother to these motherless ones," she 
would say to herself, " He will have mercy 
and give me back my boy; if I teach them 
to know and love Him as a Father, He will 
watch over my son." 

It was a custom of the time on the feasts 
of saints and martyrs to make a pilgrimage 
to their tombs, with a little basket of food 
and wine. This was laid on tht grave, after 
which the faithful would partake of what 
they had brought, while they thought and 
spoke of Hie noble lives of God s servants 
who had gone before. The custom was 
abolished not long after on account of the 
abuses which had arisen, but Monica observed 
it to the end. She scarcely tasted of her 
offering herself, but gave it all away to the 
poor. Often, indeed, she went cold and 
hungry that they might be clothed and fed. 

Her love of prayer, too, could now find full 



68 ST. MONICA 

scope. Every morning found her in her place 
in church for the Holy Sacrifice; every even 
ing she was there again, silent, absorbed in 
God. The place where she knelt was often 
wet with her tears; the time passed by un 
heeded. Patricius, her husband, was safe in 
God s hands; but Augustine, her eldest-born, 
her darling, in what dark paths was he 
wandering ? And yet in her heart of hearts 
there was a deep conviction that no sad news 
of his life at Carthage could shake. His was 
not the nature to find contentment in the 
things of earth. He was born to something 
higher. His noble heart, his strong intel 
ligence, would bring him back to God. 

And yet, and yet . . . her heart sank as 
she thought of graces wasted, of conscience 
trampled underfoot, of light rejected. No, 
there was no hope anywhere but with God. 
In Him she would trust, and in Him alone. 
He was infinite in mercy, and strong to save. 
He had promised that He would never fail 
those who put their trust in Him. At His 
feet, and at His feet alone, Monica poured 
out her tears and her sorrow. With others 
she was serene and hopeful as of old, even 



AUGUSTINE AT CARTHAGE 69 

joyous, always ready to help and comfort. 
It was said of her after her death that no one 
had such a gift of helping others as she. She 
never preached at people most people have 
an insurmountable dislike to being preached 
at but every word she said had a strange 
power of drawing souls to God, of making 
them wish to be better. 

Augustine, meanwhile, at Carthage, was 
justifying all the hopes that had been formed 
of him. He had even greater gifts, it seemed, 
than eloquence, feeling, and wit. He was 
at the head of his class in rhetoric. His 
master had spoken to him of a certain treatise 
of Aristotle which he would soon be called 
upon to study. It was so profound, he said, 
that few could understand it, even with the 
help of the most learned professors. Augus 
tine, eager to make acquaintance with this 
wonderful work, procured it at once and read 
it. It seemed to him perfectly simple; it was 
unnecessary, he found, to ask a single ex 
planation. 

It was the same with geometry, music, 
every science he took up. This young genius 
of nineteen only discovered there were diffi- 



70 ST. MONICA 

culties in the way when he had to teach 
others, and realized how hard it was to make 
them understand what was so exceedingly 
simple to himself. 

There was something strangely sympathetic 
and attractive about Augustine. He seemed 
modest and reserved about his own gifts, 
although he himself tells us in his Confessions 
that he was full of pride and ambition. He 
had a gift of making true and faithful friends, 
a charm in conversation that drew his young 
companions and even older men to his side. 

A more worldly mother than Monica would 
have been thoroughly proud of her son, 
Faith and virtue were alone weak and faint 
in that soul that could so ill do without them; 
but to her they were the one essential thing; 
the rest did not matter. Yet Monica, with 
true insight, believed that with noble minds 
knowledge must draw men to God; she 
hoped much, therefore, that Augustine s bril 
liance of intellect would save him in the end, 
and her hopes were not deceived. 

Already the noble philosophy of Cicero- 
pagan though he was had awakened a thirst 
for wisdom in the young student s soul; 



THE MANICHEANS 71 

already he felt the emptiness of earthly joys. 
" I longed, my God/ he writes, "to fly from 
the things of earth to Thee, and I knew not 
that it was Thou that wast working in 
me. . . ." 

" One thing cooled my ardour," he goes 
on to say; " it was that the Name of Christ 
was not there, and this Name, by Thy mercy, 
Lord, of Thy Son, my Saviour, my heart had 
drawn in with my mother s milk, and kept 
in its depths, and every doctrine where this 
Name did not appear, fluent, elegant, and 
truth-like though it might be, could not 
master me altogether." 

He then turned to the Holy Scriptures, 
but they appeared to him inferior in style to 
Cicero. " My pride," he writes, " despised 
the manner in which the things are said, and 
my intelligence could not discover the hidden 
sense. They become great only for the hum 
ble, and I disdained to humble myself, and, 
inflated with vainglory, I believed myself 
great." 

It was at this moment that he came in 
contact with the Manicheans, whose errors 
attracted him at once. This extraordinary 



72 ST. MONICA 

heresy had begun in the East, and had spread 
all over the civilized world. Its followers 
formed a secret society, with signs and pass 
words, grades and initiations. To impose on 
Christians they used Christian words for doc 
trines that were thoroughly unchristian. 
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about 
them was their hatred of the Church. Augus 
tine, who remained amongst them for nine 
years, thus describes them when writing to 
a friend : 

Thou knowest, Honoratus, that for this 
reason alone did we fall into the hands of 
these men namely, that they professed to 
free us from all errors, and bring us to God 
by pure reason alone, without that terrible 
principle of authority. For what else in 
duced me to abandon the faith of my child 
hood and follow these men for almost nine 
years, but their assertion that we were terri 
fied by superstition into a faith blindly im 
posed upon our reason, while they urged no 
one to believe until the truth was fully dis 
cussed and proved ? Who would not be 
seduced by such promises, especially if he 
were a proud, contentious young man, thirst- 



AN EASY DOCTRINE 73 

ing for truth, such as they then found 
me?" 

That was what the Manicheans promised. 
What Augustine found amongst them he also 
tells us. 

They incessantly repeated to me, Truth, 
truth/ but there was no truth in them. 
They taught what was false, not only about 
Thee, my God, Who art the very Truth, but 
even about the elements of this world, Thy 
creatures." 

So much for their doctrines; as for the 
teachers themselves, he found them " carnal 
and loquacious, full of insane pride." 

The great charm of Manicheism to Augus 
tine was that it taught that a man was not 
responsible for his sins. This doctrine was 
convenient to one who could not find the 
strength to break with his bad habits. 

" Such was my mind," he sums up later, 
looking back on this period of his life, " so 
weighed down, so blinded by the flesh, that 
I was myself unknown to myself." 



CHAPTER VII 

HOW ST. MONICA S HEART WAS WELL NIGH 
BROKEN BY THE NEWS THAT HER SON 
HAD ABJURED THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 

ILL news travels fast. Augustine had 
scarcely joined the Manicheans before the 
tidings reached Monica. At first she could 
hardly believe it. This was a blow for which 
she had not been prepared ; it crushed her to 
the earth. She would have grieved less over 
the news of her son s death. 

And yet she bent her broken heart to God s 
will, and hoped on in Him " Whose Mercy 
cannot fail." Augustine had renounced the 
Faith of his childhood publicly, she heard 
later; he had been entered by the Manicheans 
as an " auditor," the first degree of initiation 
in their sect. And with all the zeal and 
ardour that he carried into everything he did 
he was advocating this abominable heresy 

74 



A GREAT SORROW 75 

and persuading his companions to follow his 
example. 

Her eyes grew dim with weeping for her 
son. He was dead indeed to God that God 
who was her All in All. The vacation was 
near, and Augustine would then return to 
Tagaste. Perhaps she would find that it was 
not so bad as she had thought. It might be 
only the whim of a moment; she would wait 
and see. 

Alas ! the hope was vain. Augustine had 
scarcely been a day at home before he began 
obstinately to air his new opinions, deter 
mined that she should listen. Then the 
Christian in Monica rose above the mother; 
her horror of heresy was for the moment 
stronger than her love for her son. Standing 
before him, outraged and indignant, she told 
him plainly that if lie spoke in such a way she 
could no longer receive him at her table or 
in her house. 

Augustine was amazed; he had found out 
at last the limits of his mother s endurance. 
With bent head he left the house and sought 
the hospitality of Romanianus. No sooner 
had he gone than Monica s heart melted, the 



76 ST. MONICA 

mother-love surged up again. With bitter 
tears she cried on God to help her; her grief 
seemed greater than she could bear. At last 
the night came, and with it peace. As she 
slept, exhausted with weeping, she had a 
dream which brought her a strange sense of 
hope and comfort. 

It seemed to her that she was standing on 
a narrow rule or plank of wood, her heart 
weighed down with sorrow as it had been 
all through the day. Suddenly there came 
towards her a young man radiant and fair 
of face. Smiling at her, he asked the cause 
of her tears. " I am weeping," she answered, 
" for the loss of my son." " Grieve no more, 
then," he replied, " for, look, your son is 
standing there beside you." Monica turned 
her head. It was true; Augustine stood at 
her side on the plank of wood. " Be of good 
cheer," continued the stranger, " for where 
you are there shall he be also." Then Monica 
awoke; the words were ringing in her ears; 
it seemed to her that God had spoken. 

In the morning she went straight to Augus 
tine and told him of her dream. " Perhaps," 
suggested her son, anxious to turn it to his 



THE BISHOP S PROPHECY 77 

own advantage,, " it means that you will 
come to see things as I do/ " No/ said 
Monica firmly, " for he did not say, Where 
he is you shall be, but, Where you are there 
he shall be. Augustine was even more 
struck by the earnestness of his mother s 
answer than by the dream itself, though he 
pretended to make light of both. 

Nut long after Monica went to see a certain 
holy Bishop, that she might beg him to use 
his influence with Augustine to bring him 
back to the truth. The wise old man listened 
attentively to her story. " Let him alone for 
the present, but pray much," w r as his advice, 
" for as yet he is obstinate and puffed up with 
these new ideas. If what you tell me of your 
son is true, he will read for himself, and will 
find out his error." Then, seeing the anguish 
of the poor mother, he told her that he himself 
in his youth had been led away by the 
Manicheans, and had even been employed in 
transcribing their works. It was that which 
had saved him; for, as he wrote, the truth 
became clear to him; he had seen how much 
their doctrines were to be avoided. Then, as 
Monica wept for disappointment for she had 



78 ST. MONICA 

counted greatly on his help a sudden pity 
seized him. " Go thy ways, and God bless 
thec," he eried. " It is impossible that a son 
of such tears should perish." 

Monica s dream and the words of the 
Bishop were like rays of light in the darkness. 
She drew fresh hope from them and redoubled 
her prayers. 

The vacation drew to an end, and Augus 
tine returned to Carthage, but not for long. 
He was now twenty years old. His friend 
and patron, Romanianus, was very anxious 
that he should open a school in Tagaste while 
waiting for something better, and this he 
resolved to do. A little circle of pupils soon 
gathered round him, who were later to follow 
their young master in all his wanderings. 
Amongst these was Alypius, an old school 
fellow and a devoted friend; the sons of 
Romanianus; and another friend of Augus 
tine s childhood whose name we do not know, 
but who was dearer to him than all the rest. 
They were of the same age, had studied 
together, had the same tastes, and the same 
ambitions. 

Influenced by Augustine, still warm in the 



AUGUSTINE IS SURPRISED 79 

praise of the Manicheans, he, as well as the 
rest, had abjured the Catholic faith to join 
their heresy. 

Augustine had been about a year at Tagaste 
when this friend was taken suddenly ill. He 
lay unconscious in a burning fever; there 
seemed to be no hope of recovery. He had 
been a catechumen before he had joined the 
Manicheans. His parents, who were Chris 
tians, having begged that he might be bap 
tized before he died, the life-giving waters 
were poured on him as he lay between life and 
death. Augustine made no protest, so sure 
was he that what he himself had taught him 
before he was taken ill would have more 
influence than a rite administered without 
his knowledge or consent. To everybody s 
surprise the young man recovered his senses 
and began to mend. 

Augustine then laughingly told him what 
they had been doing, and went on to make 
fun of the whole proceeding, never doubting 
but that the sick man would enjoy the joke 
as much as he did. To his great surprise his 
friend turned from him in horror. 

Never speak to me in such a way 



8o ST. MONICA 

again if you wish to keep my affection/ he 
said. 

" We will talk this matter out when you 
are stronger," thought Augustine. But a 
few days later the invalid had a relapse, and 
died with the white robe of his Baptism still 

unstained. 

Augustine was inconsolable. Everything 
in Tagaste reminded him of the dear com 
panion of his boyhood. " My own country 
became a punishment to me," he writes, 
" and my father s house a misery, and all 
places or things in which I had communicated 
with him were turned into a bitter torment 
to me, being now without him. My eyes 
sought him everywhere, and I hated all 
things because they had him not." The 
thought of death was full of horror to him, 
and he gave way to a deep depression. His 
health, never very robust, began to suffer. 

Romanianus, much as he wished to keep 
him at Tagaste, realized that a change of 
scene would be the best thing for him, and 
agreed to his proposal to return to Carthage 
and open a school of rhetoric. Alypius and 
his other disciples followed him, and in the 



A STRANGE OFFER 81 

rush of the great city Augustine regained, to 
some extent, his peace of mind. While 
teaching, he continued his own studies, and 
competed for the public prizes. Many men 
of note joined his school, and his name began 
to be famous. 

He greatly desired honour, he tells us, but 
only if honourably won. One day a certain 
magician paid him a visit. He had heard, 
he said, that Augustine was about to compete 
for one of the State prizes in rhetoric. What 
would he be ready to give if he could insure 
him the victory ? It was only necessary to 
offer some living creatures in sacrifice to the 
demons whom he worshipped and success 
would be certain. Augustine turned from 
him in horror and disgust. He had not yet 
fallen so low as this. 

" I would not sacrifice a fly," he retorted 
hotly, " to win a crown of gold !" 

The magician retired in haste, and Augus 
tine, who succeeded in carrying off the prize 
without the help of the demons, was publicly 
crowned by the Pro-Consul Vindicius, who 
from thenceforth joined the circle of his 
friends. 

F 



82 ST. MONICA 

The news of his success reached Monica. 
Her mother s heart rejoiced in his triumph, 
but her joy was tempered with sorrow. 
Carthage had taken more from her son than 
it could ever give him, and her thoughts were 
of other victories and other crowns. During 
his stay in Tagaste, although Augustine had 
not lived under the same roof with his mother, 
he had been continually with her. Her tender 
affection had been his greatest comfort in 
the deep sorrow after his friend s death. He 
spoke no more to her of religion, and she, 
mindful of the old Bishop s words, was also 

silent. 

"While I was struggling in the mire and 
in the darkness of error," writes Augustine, 
" that holy, chaste, devout, and sober widow 
(such as Thou lovest) ceased not in all the 
hours of her prayers to bewail me in Thy sight. 
And her prayers were admitted into Thy 
Presence, and yet Thou sufferedst me to go 
on still, and to be involved in that darkness." 

The darkness was indeed great, but the 
fires were still smouldering beneath the ashes. 
Love, honour, and success were all his, and 
yet he was not content. There was some- 



A GLEAM OF HOPE 83 

thing in his soul that none of these things 
could satisfy. " After Thee, O Truth/ he 
cries, " I hungered and thirsted 1" His heart 
still ached for the loss of his friend, he turned 
everywhere for comfort and found none. 
He sought forgetfulness in study. He wrote 
two books on the " Beautiful " and the " Apt," 
and dedicated them to Hierus, a famous 
Roman orator. " It seemed to me a great 
thing/ he tells us, " that my style and my 
studies should be known to such a man." 

Monica drew fresh hope from her son s 
writings. They were fuU of noble thoughts 
and high aspirations. Such a mind could not 
remain in error. Some day, surely, in God s 
good time, he would come to know the 
truth. 



CHAPTER VIII 

HOW AUGUSTINE PLANNED TO GO TO ROME, 
AND HOW HE CRUELLY DECEIVED HIS 
MOTHER. 

IT was about tins time that Augustine s 
enthusiasm for the Manichcans began to cool. 
He had been studying their doctrines, and 
had found that they wore not quite what he 
thought. He was disappointed with their 
professors too. 

The first unpleasant truth that dawned 
upon him was that they were much better at 
denying the doctrines of the Catholic Church 
than at explaining their own. It was almost 
impossible to find out what they believed, so 
vague did they become when closely ques 
tioned. And Augustine questioned very 
closely indeed. He was on the track of 
truth, and it was not easy to put him off 
with hazy general statements. He was still 

84 



FAUST US 85 

only an " auditor," and before lie took any 
further step he wasted to be certain of his 
ground. The men whom he consulted did 
not seem very certain of their own, he re 
marked, but they bade him have patience. 
One of their bishops, Faust is by name, was 
soon coming to Carthage. He was one of 
their most brilliant preachers, and would be 
able to answer all Augustine s questions. 

This sounded promising, and Augustine 
awaited his coming impatiently. He cer 
tainly was an eloquent speaker; his sermons 
were charming. But when Augustine went 
to him privately and explained his doubts to 
him, the result was not what he had hoped 
lor. He gave the same vague answers that 
Augustine had so often hoard already. 
Pressed closer, he frankly replied that he 
was not learned enough to be able to 
satisfy him. Augustine was pleased with his 
honesty, and they became good friends. But 
the seeker was no nearer the truth than 
before. 

Yet if Faustus could not answer him, 
which of the Manicheans could ? He began 
to lose faith in them. 



86 ST. MONICA 

What did the Catholic Church teach on 
these points ? he asked. This was a question 
which they could all answer, and did with 
great eagerness and little truth. 

It might have occurred to a less intelligent 
man than Augustine that the enemies of the 
Church were not the people to answer such a 
question fairly or truthfully : but he accepted 
their facts, and decided that truth was not 
to be found there either. Was there such a 
thing at all ? was the final question he asked 
himself. The old philosophers, heathens as 
they were, seemed to get nearer to the heart of 
things than this. 

Yet now and again, out of the very sickness 
of his soul, a prayer would break out to that 
Christ Whom he had known and loved in his 
boyhood, but Who had grown so dim to him 
since the Manicheans had taught him that 
His Sacred Humanity was nothing but a 
shadow. He was weary of life, weary even 
of pleasure, weary of everything, weary most 
of all of Carthage. 

Owing to the wild ways of the students it 
was impossible to keep anything like order 
in the schools. Classes were constantly inter- 



THOUGHTS OF ROME 87 

rupted by gangs of " smashers/ who might 
break in at any moment, setting the whole 
place in an uproar. 

Augustine s friends pressed him to go to 
Rome. There, they urged, he would meet 
with the honour that he deserved. There Hie 
students were quieter and better-mannered; 
no rioting was allowed; scholars might enter 
no school but that of their own master. This 
sounded hopeful; Augustine was rather 
pleased with the idea. He wrote to Monica 
and to his patron Romanianus to tell them 
of the step he proposed to take. 

Monica s heart sank when she read the 
letter. To the Christians of the fourth cen 
tury Rome was another Babylon. She had 
poured out the blood of the saints like water ; 
she was the home of every abomination. 
What would become of Augustine in Rome ? 
Without faith, without ideals, a disabled ship, 
drifting with every wind. 

He must not go, she decided, or if he did 
she would go with him. She prayed that she 
might be able to make him give up the 
project, and wrote strongly against it; but 
Augustine had already made up his mind. 



88 ST. MONICA 

Then, in despair, she set out for Carthage to 
make one last effort. 

Her son was touched by her grief and her 
entreaties, but his plans were made: he was 
to start that very night. " I lied to my 
mother," he says, " and such a mother !" 
He assured her that he was not going, that 
she might set her mind at rest. A friend of 
his was leaving Carthage, and he had prom 
ised to go down to the harbour to see him off. 

Some instinct warned Monica that he was 
deceiving her. " I will go with you," she 
said. This was very awkward for her son; 
he was at his wit s end to know what to do. 
They went down to the harbour together, 
where they found Augustine s friend. No 
ship could put out that night, the sailors 
said, the wind was dead against them. The 
young men were unwilling to leave the har 
bour in case the wind should change and 
they should miss the boat, while Monica was 
determined not to leave Augustine. 

They walked up and down together on the 
seashore in the cool evening air. The hours 
passed, and the situation became more and 
more difficult for Augustine. What was he 



THE CHAPEL ON THE SHORE 89 

to do ? Monica was weary and worn out 
with grief. An idea suggested itself to him 
suddenly. It was no use waiting any longer, 
he said, it would be better to take some 
rest; the boat would certainly not start that 
night. 

Monica was in no mood to rest; but Augus 
tine knew her love of prayer. There was a 
little chapel on the seashore, dedicated to 
St. Cyprian. Would she not at least go 
there and take shelter until the morning? 
He promised her again that he would not 
leave Carthage, and she at last consented, 
for her soul was full of sorrow. 

Kneeling there in the stillness of the little 
chapel, she poured out the troubles of her 
heart to God, beseeching Him that He would 
not let Augustine leave her. The answer 
seemed a strange one. As she prayed the 
wind suddenly changed; the sailors prepared 
to depart. Augustine and his friend went 
on board, and the ship set sail for Rome. 

The last thing they saw as the shore faded 
away in the dim grey of the morning was the 
little chapel of St. Cyprian lying like a speck 
in the distance. But they did not see a 



9 o ST. MONICA 

lonely figure that stood on the sand and 
stretched out piteous hands to Heaven, 
wailing for the son whom she had lost a second 
time. 

It was God alone Who knew all the bitter 
ness of that mother s heart. It was God 
alone Who knew how, after the first uncon 
trollable outburst of grief, she bent herself 
in faith and love to endure the heartbreak- 
silent and uncomplaining. And it was only 
God Who knew that the parting that seemed 
so cruel was to lead to the granting of her 
life-long prayer, to be the first stage in her 
son s conversion. 

" She turned herself to Thee to pray for 
me," says Augustine, " and went about her 
accustomed affairs, and I arrived at Rome." 

It seemed, indeed, as if his arrival in Rome 
was destined to be the end of his earthly 
career, for soon afterwards he was attacked 
by a violent fever and lay at death s door. 
He was lodging in the house of a Manichean, 
for, although he no longer held with their 
doctrines, he had many friends among them 
in Carthage who had recommended him to 
some of their sect in Rome. 



DISILLUSIONMENT 91 

Augustine himself was convinced that he 
owed his life at this time to his mother s 
prayers. God would not, for her sake, let 
him be cut off thus in all his sins, unbaptizcd 
and unrepentant, lest that mother s heart 
should be broken and her prayers unan 
swered. He recovered, and began to teach. 

Already while he was in Carthage he had 
suspected that the lives of the Manicheans 
were not much better than those of the 
heathens among whom they lived, although 
they gave out that their creed was the only 
one likely to reform human nature. In Rome 
his suspicions were confirmed. Thinking that 
Augustine was altogether one of themselves, 
they threw off the mask and showed them 
selves in their true colours. 

The pagans at least were honest. They 
professed openly that they lived for nothing 
but enjoyment, and in this great city, even 
more than in Carthage, one could learn how 
low a man might fall; but at least they were 
not hypocrites. He resolved to cut himself 
adrift from the Manicheans altogether. 

There was a Christian Rome within the 
pagan Rome, but of this Augustine knew 



92 ST. MONICA 

nothing. On the Throne of the Fisherman 
sat St. Damasus, wise and holy. His secre 
tary, St. Jerome,, was already famous,, no less 
for his eloquence than for the greatness of 
his character. Jerome, like Augustine, had 
been carried away in his youth by the down 
ward tide, but had retrieved himself by a 
glorious penance. The descendants of the 
oldest Roman families were to be found in 
the hospitals tending the sick or working 
amongst the poor in the great city. The first 
monasteries were growing up, little centres of 
faith and prayer in the desert. They were 
peopled by men and women who had counted 
the world well lost for Christ, or by those 
who to save their souls had fled, as the great 
St. Benedict was to do later, from the cor 
ruptions that had dragged down so many into 
the abyss. 

Augustine had been greatly attracted 
shortly before leaving Carthage by the 
preaching of Helpidius, a Catholic priest. 
The idea came to him while in Rome to go 
to the Catholics and find out what they 
really taught. But he dismissed it. The 
Manicheans had already told him, he reflected, 



93 

that no intelligent man could accept their 
doctrines. Besides, they were too strict; 
their ideals were too high; he would have to 
give up too much. 

One more honest impulse was stifled. He 
entered a school of philosophers who professed 
to believe in nothing. It was, he decided, the 
wisest philosophy he knew. 



CHAPTER IX 

HOW AUGUSTINE CAME TO MILAN, AND HOW 
HIS TEMPEST- TOSSED SOUL FOUND LIGHT 
AND PEACE AT LAST 

AUGUSTINE had not been a year in Rome 
before he discovered that the ways of the 
Roman students were not quite so delightful 
as he had been led to believe. They were less 
insolent, it is true, than those of Carthage, 
and not so rough ; but they had other defects 
which were quite as trying. They would, 
for instance, attend the classes of a certain 
professor until the time arrived to pay their 
fees, when, deserting in a body to another 
school, they would proceed to play the same 
trick there. It was certainly one way of 
getting an education for nothing, but it was 
hard on the teachers. It seemed scarcely 
the profession in which one would be likely 
to make a fortune, even if it were possible to 

94 



MILAN 95 

earn one s daily bread. Augustine was dis 
couraged and sick at heart; everything seemed 
to be against him; there was no hope, no 
light anywhere. His life seemed doomed to 
be a failure, in spite of all his gifts. 

And then, quite suddenly, came the open 
ing that he had longed for. Symmachus, 
the Prefect of Rome, received a letter from 
Milan, requesting him to name a professor 
of rhetoric for the vacant chair in that city. 
A competition was announced in which 
Symmachus, himself a well-known orator, 
was to be the judge. Augustine entered and 
won the prize. It was an excellent and 
honourable position. The professor was sup 
ported by the State. The Emperor Valen- 
tinian held his Court in the city, which gave 
it a certain position. 

Augustine was furnished with letters of 
introduction to Ambrose, the Bishop, who 
had been brilliantly successful at the Bar in 
his youth, and was probably an old friend of 
Symmachus. He was of a noble Roman 
family, and famous alike for his great learning 
and peculiar charm of manner. He was 
famous also for his holiness of life, but this 



96 ST. MONICA 

was of less interest to Augustine; it was 
Ambrose the orator with whom he desired 
to make acquaintance. 

No sooner had he arrived in Milan than 
he presented himself before the Bishop, who 
received him with a cordial courtesy that 
attracted Augustine at once. The only way 
to judge of his eloquence was to attend the 
sermons at the cathedral. This Augustine 
began to do regularly. He found that Am 
brose had not been overpraised. He listened 
to him at first with the pleasure it always 
gave him to hear an eloquent speaker; then, 
gradually, with a shock of surprise, he began 
to attend to what the Bishop said, as well as 
to his manner of saying it. 

Ambrose was explaining the doctrines of 
the Church. He spoke very clearly and 
simply, to the intelligence no less than to 
the heart, for there were many catechumens 
in his congregation, as well as pagans who 
were seeking for the truth. 

The Manicheans had deceived him, then, 
thought Augustine; they had lied about the 
Church s teaching; or they themselves had 
been ignorant of it, and he had let himself 



ST. MONICA AT MILAN 97 

be deceived. This was altogether unlike 
what they had told him. It was noble and 
sublime; all that was great and good in him 
responded. Had he found the Truth at last ? 

In the meantime Monica, determined to 
rejoin her son, arrived in Milan. The journey 
had been long and dangerous; they had been 
assailed by terrible storms; even the sailors 
had lost courage. It was she who had com 
forted them in their fear. The storm will 
soon be over," she assured them; " I know 
that we shall reach our journey s end in 
safety." She had a strong conviction that 
she would not die until her prayers had won 
Augustine back to God. The sailors took 
heart again at her words; her calm eyes 
strengthened them; they felt that this gentle 
woman knew things that were hidden from 
them. 

Monica s first visit was to St. Ambrose. 
The two noble natures understood each other 
at once. " Thank God for having given you 
such a mother," said the Bishop to Augustine, 
when he met him a few days later; " she is 
one in a thousand." 

Much had happened since mother and son 

G 



98 ST. MONICA 

had parted, and much had to be told. The 
first thing that Monica heard was that 
Augustine had left the Manicheans. At this 
she rejoiced greatly; she was convinced, she 
told him, that she would see him a Catholic 
before she died. " Thus she spoke to me/ 
says Augustine, " but to Thee, O Fountain 
of Mercy, she redoubled her prayers and her 
tears, beseeching Thee to hasten Thine aid 
and dispel my darkness." They went to 
gether now to the sermons and sat side by 
side in the Church as in the days of Augus 
tine s childhood. One by one he laid aside 
the false ideas of the truth that had been 
given to him by the Manicheans. It was 
growing clearer to him every day. True, 
there was much that was above his under 
standing- above the understanding of any 
human being, as Ambrose frankly acknow 
ledged but not above their faith. The 
Manicheans had sneered at faith as childish 
and credulous; and yet, thought Augustine, 
how many things he believed that he could 
have no possibility of proving. He believed, 
for instance, that Hannibal had crossed the 
Alps, although he had not been present at 



THE DAWN OF HOPE 99 

the time. He believed that Athens existed, 
although he had never been there. 

As of old, a little group of friends had 
gathered round him at Milan. There was 
Alypius, the most beloved of all his asso 
ciates, who had taken the place of the dear 
dead friend of his boyhood. There was 
Romanianus, who was there on State business, 
and Licentius, his son, with Trigetius, both 
pupils of Augustine s; Nebridius, who had 
been with him in Carthage, and was, like 
himself, a native of Roman Africa; and 
several new friends he had made in Milan. 
It was agreed amongst them that they should 
set apart a certain time every day to seek 
for the truth, reading and discussing among 
themselves. The Scriptures were to form 
part of the reading. 

" Great hope has dawned," wrote Augus 
tine; " the Catholic Faith teaches not what 
we thought and vainly accused it of. Life 
is vain, death uncertain; if it steals upon us 
of a sudden, in what state shall we depart 
hence ? And where shall we learn what here 
we have neglected ? Let us not delay to 
seek after God and the blessed life." 



ioo ST. MONICA 

There was in Mihm a holy old priest called 
SimplicianuSj greatly bek)ved by St. Am 
brose, for he had been his teacher and guide 
in early life. To him Augustine resolved to 
go; he might be able to help him. He told 
Simplicianus, amongst other tilings, that he 
had been reading a book of philosophy trans 
lated by a Roman called Victorinus. The 
book was good, said Simplicianus, but the 
story of Victorinus own life was better. He 
had known him well in Rome. Augustine 
was interested; he would like to hear the 
story, he said. 

Victorinus, said the old man, was a pagan 
and a worshipper of the heathen gods. He 
was a famous orator, and taught rhetoric to 
some of the noblest citizens of Rome. He 
was learned in every science, and was so 
celebrated for his virtue that a statue had 
been erected to him in the forum. In his 
old age, after earnest study, he became a 
Christian, but remained a long time a catechu 
men through fears of what his friends would 
say. At last taking courage, he prepared 
himself for Baptism, and, to punish himself 
for his human respect, insisted on reading his 



SEARCITINGS OF SPIRIT 101 

profession of faith aloud before the whole 
congregation, instead of making it, as was 
usual, in private. 

This courageous action of an old man 
made Augustine feel his own cowardice. He 
believed now that the Catholic Church was 
the true Church, and yet he could not face 
the thought of Baptism. He would have to 
give up so much. The Christian standard 
was high for a man who had spent his life 
in self-indulgence. He could never attain 
to it. He took leave of Simplicianus sadly; 
the help which he needed was not to be found 
there. 

" I went about my usual business," he 
says, " while my anxiety increased as I 
daily sighed to Thee/ He frequented the 
Church now even when there were no sermons, 
for he began to feel the need of prayer. 

One day when Alypius and he were alone 
together there came in a friend of theirs, 
Pontitianus, a devout Christian, who held a 
post at the Emperor s Court. Finding the 
Epistles of St. Paul upon the table, he smiled 
at Augustine, saying that he was glad that 
he was reading them, for they were full of 



102 ST. MONICA 

teaching. He began to tell them about St. 
Anthony, and of the man} hermitages and 
monasteries in Egypt, and even here in his 
own country. He spoke to them of the 
monastic life and its virtues, and, seeing their 
interest and astonishment, went on to tell 
them an incident that had happened a short 
time before. 

Two young men of the Imperial Court, 
friends of his own, walking together in the 
country, came to a cottage inhabited by some 
holy recluses. A life of St. Anthony lay on 
the table. One of them took it up and began 
to read. His first feeling was one of astonish 
ment, his second of admiration. " How un 
certain life is!" he said suddenly to his com 
panion. " We are in the Emperor s service. 
I wish we were in God s; I had rather be His 
friend than the Emperor s." He read on, 
with sighs and groans. At last he shut the 
book and arose. " My mind is made up," 
he said; " I shall enter God s service here 
and now. If you will not do so too, at least 
do not try to hinder me." " You have 
chosen well," said the other; " I am with you 
in this." They never left the hermitage. 



A BITTER STRUGGLE 103 

This story only increased Augustine s 
misery. He had had more graces than these 
young men, and had wasted them; he was a 
coward. When Pontitianus had gone away, 
he left Alypius and went out into the 
garden. Alypius followed and sat down 
beside him. 

" What are we about !" cried Augustine 
hotly. " The unlearned take heaven by 
force, and we, with all our heartless learning, 
wallow in the mire !" He sank his face in 
his hands and groaned. The way lay clear 
before him; he had found the Eternal Truth 
for which he had been seeking so long, and 
he had not the c< /uragc to go further. 

This and that he would have to do; this and 
that he would have to give up he could not : 
it was too hard. 

And yet- to stand with both feet on the 
rock of truth, was it not worth all this and 
more ? 

So the battle raged. Good and evil strug 
gled together in his soul. 

It seemed to him then that he saw a long 
procession winding across the garden. It 
passed him and faded in the distance. First 



104 ST. MONICA 

came boys and girls, young and weak, scarcely 
more than children, and they mocked him 
gently. " We have fought and conquered," 
they said, " even we." After them came a 
great multitude of men and women in the 
prime of life, some strong and vigorous, some 
feeble and sickly. It seemed to Augustine 
as if they looked at him with eyes full of 
contempt. " We have lived purely," they 
said, " we have striven and conquered." 
They were followed by old men and women, 
worn with age and suffering. They looked 
at him reproachfully. " We have fought 
and conquered," they said, " we have en 
dured unto the end." 

Augustine s self-control was leaving him; 
even Ah pius presence was more than he 
could bear. He leapt to his feet, went to 
the other end of the garden, and, throwing 
himself down on the ground, wept as if his 
heart would break. His soul, tossed this way 
and that in its anguish, cried desperately to 
God for help. 

Suddenly on the stillness of the summer 
afternoon there broke the sound of a child s 
voice, sweet, insistent. " Tolle, lege," it 



THE AWAKENING 105 

sang; " tolle, lege " ("Take and read"). 
Augustine stood up. There was no one 
there; no human being was in sight. " Tolle, 
lege; tolle, lege," rang the sweet voice again 
and again in his ear, now on this side, 
now on that. Was this the answer to his 
prayer ? 

He remembered how St. Anthony had 
opened the sacred Scriptures on a like occa 
sion, and had found the help that he required. 
Going back to Alypius, he took up the sacred 
volume and opened it. " Put ye on the 
Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision 
for the flesh and the concupiscence thereof," 
he read. 

Light, strength, and conviction flowed into 
his soul. With God s help all things were 
possible; he would give up all and follow 
Him. Then, having carefully marked the 
place, he sat down beside Alypius and told 
him of his resolution. 

" What about me ?" asked Alypius. " Per 
haps there is something there for me too. 
Let me see." He took the book from Augus 
tine, opened at the place he had marked, 
and read: " He that is weak in the faith take 



106 ST. MONICA 

unto you." That will do very well for 
me/ he said. 

Augustine s first thought was for Monica. 
He must go to her, and at once. They sat 
together hand in hand until the sun sank in 
a rose-coloured glory and the cool shadows 
of the evening fell like a blessing on the earth. 
There are some joys too deep for speech, too 
holy to be touched by mortal hands. 



CHAPTER X 

HOW ST. MONICA LIVED AT CASSIACUM WITH 
AUGUSTINE AND HIS FRIENDS, AND HOW 
AUGUSTINE WAS BAPTIZED BY ST. 
AMBROSE 

AMONGST the saints there arc two great peni 
tents, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Augustine, 
who in the first moment of their conversion 
shook themselves wholly free from the tram 
mels of the past and never looked back 
again. 

" Thou hast broken my bonds in sunder," 
cries St. Augustine, " to Thee will I offer the 
sacrifice of praise." Honours, wealth, plea 
sure, all the things he had desired so passion 
ately, were now as nothing to him. "For 
Thou didst expel them from me," he says, 
" and didst come in Thyself instead of them. 
And I sang to Thee, my Lord God, my true 
honour, my riches, and my salvation." 

107 



io3 ST. MONICA 

The vacation was close at hand. Augus 
tine resolved to give up his professorship and 
to go away quietly to prepare himself for 
Baptism. Verecundus, one of the little group 
of faithful friends who surrounded him, had 
a country house in Cassiacum, which he 
offered for his use while he remained in Italy. 
It was a happy party that gathered within its 
walls. There were Augustine and his younger 
brother Navigius; the faithful Alypius, who 
was to receive Baptism with his friend; 
Licentius and Trigetius, Augustine s two 
pupils; and several others. Lastly there was 
Monica, who was a mother to them all, and 
whose sunny presence did much to enliven 
the household. It was autumn, an Italian 
mid-September. The country was a glory of 
green and gold and crimson, the Apennines 
lying like purple shadows in the distance. 

Here, in the seclusion that was so dear to 
his heart, Augustine read the Psalms for the 
first time. His soul was on fire with their 
beauty; every word carried him to God. 
Monica read with him, and he tells us that he 
would often turn to her for an explanation. 
" For," he continues, " she was walking 



CASSIACUM 109 

steadily in the path in which I was as yet 
feeling my way." 

There were other studies besides to be 
carried on, and St. Augustine tells us of some 
of the interesting discussions that were held 
on the lawn, or in the hall of the baths, which 
they used when the weather was not fine 
enough to go out. 

One morning, when he and his pupils were 
talking of the wonderful harmony and order 
that exist in nature, the door opened and 
Monica looked in. 

" How are you getting on ?" she asked, for 
she knew what they were discussing. Augus 
tine invited her to join them, but Monica 
smiled. " I have never heard of a woman 
amongst the philosophers," she said. 

That is a mistake," replied Augustine. 
There were women philosophers amongst 
the ancients, and you know, my dear mother, 
that I like your philosophy very much. 
Philosophy means nothing else but love of 
wisdom. Now you love wisdom more even 
than you love me, and I know how much that 
is. Why, you are so far advanced in wisdom 
that you fear no ill-fortune, not even death 



no ST. MONICA 

itself. Everybody says that this is the very 
height of philosophy. I will therefore sit at 
your feet as your disciple." 

Monica, still smiling, told her son that he 
had never told so many lies in his life. In 
spite of her protests, however, they would 
not let her go, and she was enrolled amongst 
the philosophers. The discussions, says St. 
Augustine, owed a good deal of their beauty 
to her presence. 

The 1 5th of November was Augustine s 
birthday. After dinner he invited his friends 
to come to the hall of the baths, that their 
souls might be fed also. 

" For I suppose you all admit," he said, 
when they had settled themselves for con 
versation, " that we are made up of soul 
and body." To this everybody agreed but 
Navigius, who was inclined to argue, and 
who said he did not know. 

" Do you mean," asked Augustine, " that 
there is nothing at all that you do know, or 
that of the few things you do not know this 

is one ?" 

Navigius was a little put out at this ques 
tion, but they pacified him, and at last per- 



THE PHILOSOPHERS in 

suaclod him to say that he was as certain of 
the fact that he was made up of body and 
soul as anybody could be. They then agreed 
that food was taken for the sake of the body. 

" Must not the soul have its food too ?" 
asked Augustine. " And what is that food ? 
Is it not knowledge ?" 

Monica agreed to this, but Trigetius ob 
jected. 

Why, you yourself," said Monica, " are 
a living proof of it. Did you not tell us at 
dinner that you did not know what you were 
eating because you were lost in thought ? 
Yet your teeth were working all the time. 
Where was your soul at that moment if not 
feeding too ?" 

Then Augustine, reminding them that it 
was his birthday, said that as he had already 
given them a little feast for the body, he 
would now give them one for the soul. 

Were they hungry ? he asked. 

There was an eager chorus of assent. 

" Can a man be happy," he said, " if he 
has not what he wants, and is he happy if 
he has it ?" 

Monica was the first to answer this ques- 



H2 ST. MONICA 

lion. " If lie wants what is good and has it," 
she replied, "he is happy. But if he wants 
what is bad, he is not happy even if he has it." 

" Well said, mother !" eried Augustine. 
" You have reached the heights of philosophy 
at a single bound." 

Someone then said that if a man were 
needy he could not be happy. Finally they 
all agreed that only he who possessed God 
could be wholly happy. But the discussion 
had gone on for a long time, and Augustine 
suggested that the soul might have too much 
nourishment as well as the body, and that 
it would be better to put off the rest until 
to-morrow. 

The discussion was continued next day. 

" Since only he who possesses God can be 
happy, who is he who possesses God ?" asked 
Augustine, and they were all invited to give 
their opinion. 

" He that leads a good life," answered one. 
" He who does God s will," said another. 
" He who is pure of heart," said a third. 
Navigius would not say anything, but agreed 
with the last speaker. Monica approved of 
them all. 



A DISCUSSION 113 

St. Augustine continued: " It is God s will 
that all should seek Him ?" 

" Of course," they all replied. 

" Can he who seeks God be leading a bad 
life?" 

" Certainly not," they said. 

" Can a man who is not pure in heart seek 
God?" 

" No," they agreed. 

Then," said Augustine, " what have we 
here ? A man who leads a good life, does 
God s will, and is pure of heart, is seeking 
God. But he does not yet possess Him. 
Therefore we cannot uphold that they who 
lead good lives, do God s will, and arc pure 
of heart, possess God." 

They all laughed at the trap in which he 
had caught them. But Monica, saying that 
she was slow to grasp these things, asked 
to have the argument repeated. Then she 
thought a moment. 

No one can possess God without seeking 
Him," she said. 

True," said Augustine, " but while he is 
seeking he does not yet possess." 

I think there is no one who does not have 

H 



ii. I ST. MONICA 

God," she said. " But those who live well 
have Him for their friend, and those who live 
badly make themselves His enemies. Let us 
change the statement, He who possesses God 
is happy to He who has God for his friend 
is happy. 

All agreed to this but Navigius. 
"No," he said, "for this reason. If he is 
happy who has God for his friend (and God 
is the friend of those who seek Him, and those 
who seek Him do not possess Him, for to this 
all have agreed), then it is obvious that those 
who are seeking God have not what they 
want. And we all agreed yesterday that a 
man cannot be happy unless he has what he 
wants." 

Monica could not see her way out of this 
difficulty, although she was sure there was 
one. " I yield," she said, " for logic is 
against me." 

"Well," said Augustine, "we have reached 
the conclusion that he who has found God 
has Him for his friend and is happy ; but he 
who is still seeking God has Him for his 
friend but is not yet happy. He, however, 
who has separated himself from God by sin 



A DISCUSSION i I5 

has neither G;,d for his friend nor is he 
happy." 

This satisfied everybody. 
The other side of the question was then 
considered. 

In what did unhappiness consist ?" asked 
Augustine. 

Monica maintained that neediness and un 
happiness must go together. " For he who 
has not what he wants/ she said, " is both 
needy and unhappy." 

Augustine then supposed a man who had 
everything he wanted in this world. Could 
it be said that he was needy ? Yet was it 
certain that he was happy ? 

Licentius suggested that there would remain 
with him the fear of losing what he had. 

That fear/ replied Augustine, " would 
make him unhappy but would not make him 
needy. Therefore we could have a man who 
is unhappy without being needy." 

To this everyone agreed but Monica, who 
still argued that unhappiness could not be 
separated from neediness. 

1 This supposed man of yours/ she said 
1 rich and fortunate, still fears to lose his 



n6 ST. MONICA 

good fortune. That shows that he wants 
wisdom. Can we call a man who wants 
money needy, and not call him so when he 
wants wisdom ?" 

At this remark there was a general outcry 
of admiration. It was the very argument, 
said Augustine, that he had meant to use 
himself. 

" Nothing," said Licentius, " could have 
been more truly and divinely said. What, 
indeed, is more wretched than to lack wis 
dom ? And the wise man can never be 
needy, whatever else he lacks." 

Augustine then went on to define wisdom. 
" The wisdom that makes us happy," he said, 
" is the wisdom of God, and the wisdom of 
God is the Son of God. Perfect life is the only 
happy life," he continued, " and to this, by^ 
means of firm faith, cheerful hope, and burning 
love we shall surely be brought if we but 
hasten towards it." 

So the discussion ended, and all were con 
tent. 

" Oh," cried Trigetius, " how I wish you 
would provide us with a feast like this every 

j i" 

day I 



HOME AT LAST 117 

" Moderation in all things/ answered 
Augustine. "If this has been a pleasure to 
you, it is God alone that you must thank." 

So the happy innocent days flew past in 
the pursuit of that wisdom which is eternal. 
Too late have I loved Thee, O Beauty ever 
ancient, ever new I" cried Augustine. " Be 
hold Thou wast within me, and I was abroad, 
and there I sought Thee. I have tasted Thee, 
and I am hungry after Thee. Thou hast 
touched me, and I am all on lire." 

At the beginning of Lent Augustine and 
Alypius returned to Milan to attend the 
course of instructions which St. Ambrose was 
to give to those who were preparing for 
Baptism. 

In the night between Holy Saturday and 
Easter Sunday the stains of the past were 
washed away for ever in those cleansing 
waters, and at the Mass of the daybreak on 
that blessed morning Augustine knelt at the 
altar to receive his Lord. Monica was beside 
him; her tears and her prayers had been 
answered. She and her son were one again 
in heart and soul. 



CHAPTER XI 

HOW ST. MONICA SET OUT FOR AFRICA WITH 
ST. AUGUSTINE, AND HOW SHE DIED AT 
OSTIA ON THE TIBER 

IN the old days at Milan, before his conversion, 
Augustine had often told his friends that the 
dream of his life was to live quietly some 
where with a few friends, who would devote 
themselves to the search for truth. It had 
even been proposed to try the scheme, but 
it would not work. Some of his friends 
were married; others had worldly ties that 
they could not break. The idea had to be 
given up. 

Now he had found the Truth, and at Cas- 
siacuin his dream had been in a manner 
realized. Why should they not continue 
to live like that, he asked Alypius, at all 
events until they were ready for the work to 
which God had called them ? And where 

118 



FUTURE PLANS 119 

should they live this life but in their own 
country, which was to be the future field of 
their labours ? 

Alypius asked nothing better. Their friend 
Evodius, like themselves a citizen of Tagaste, 
who had been baptized a short time before, 
was ready to join them. He held a high 
position at the Court of the Emperor, but 
it seemed to him a nobler thing to serve the 
King of kings. So these three future bishops 
of the Church in Africa made their plans 
together. Monica would be the mother of 
the little household, as she had been at 
Cassiacum; she was ready to go wherever 
they wished. 

A few days before they started an event 
occurred which they all remembered later. 
It was the feast of St. Cyprian, and Monica 
had returned from Mass absorbed in God, 
as she always was after Holy Communion. 
Perhaps she had been thinking of her night 
of anguish in the little chapel by the sea 
shore at Carthage three years before, when 
God had seemed deaf to her prayers, in 
order that He might grant her the fulness of 
her heart s desire. 



120 ST. MONICA 

Suddenly she turned to them with shining 
eyes. 

Let us hasten to heaven !" she cried. 

They gently questioned her as to what 

she meant, but she did not seem to hear them. 

My soul and my flesh have rejoiced in the 

living God," she said, and they marvelled at 

the heavenly beauty of her face. 

It was a long journey from Milan to Ostia 
on the Tiber, where they were to set sail 
for Africa. They remained there for some 
weeks, for the ship was not to start at once. 

One evening Augustine and Monica were 
sitting together at a window that overlooked 
the garden and the sea. They were talking 
of heaven, St. Augustine tells us, asking each 
other what that eternal life of the saints 
must be which eye hath not seen nor ear 
heard. How small in comparison were the 
things of earth, they said, even the most 
beautiful of God s creations; for all these 
things were less than He who made them. 
As their two souls stretched out together 
towards the infinite Love and Wisdom, it 
seemed to them that for one moment, with 
one beat of the heart, they touched It, and 



THE TOY OK THAT MOMENT \v,\s LIKK A FORETASTE OF ETERNITY. 




WHAT HAVE I TO LIVE FOR? 121 

the joy of that moment was a foreshadowing 
of eternity. 

They sighed as it faded from them, and 
they were forced to return again to the things 
of earth. 

11 Son/ said Monica, " there is nothing in 
this world now that gives me any delight. 
What have I to do here any longer ? I know 
not, for all I desired is granted. There was 
only one thing for which I wished to live, 
and that was to sec you a Christian and a 
Catholic before I died. And God has given 
me even more than I asked, for He has made 
you one of His servants, and you now desire 
no earthly happiness. What am I doing 
here ?" 

About five days afterwards she fell ill of 
a fever. They thought she was tired with 
the long journey, and would soon be better; 
but she grew worse, and was soon unconscious. 
When she opened her eyes, Augustine and 
Navigius were watching by her bed. 

You will bury your mother here," she 
said. Augustine could not trust himself to 
speak; but Navigius, who knew how great 
had been her desire to be buried at Tagaste 



122 ST. MONICA 

beside her husband, protested. " Oh, why 
are we not at home/ he cried, " where you 
would wish to be !" Monica looked at him 
reproachfully. " Do you hear what he says?" 
she asked Augustine. " Lay my body any 
where," she said; " it does not matter. Do 
not let that disturb you. This only I ask 
that you remember me at God s Altar 
wherever you may be." 

" One is never far from God," she answered 
to another person who asked her if it would 
not be a sorrow to her to be buried in a land 
so far from home. 

It was not only her sons who grieved, but 
the faithful friends who were with them, for 
was she not their mother too ? Had she not 
taken as much care of them as if they had 
been her children ? 

Augustine scarcely left her side, and she 
was glad to have him with her. As she 
thanked him one day for some little thing 
he had done for her, his lip quivered. She 
thought he was thinking of all the suffering 
he had caused her, and smiled at him with 
tender eyes. " You have always been a good 
son to me," she said. " Never have I heard 



THE DEATH OF A SAINT 123 

a harsh or reproachful word from your 
lips." 

My life was torn in two/ says Augustine. 
That life which was made up of mine and 
hers." 

They were all with her when she passed 
peacefully away a few days later. They 
choked back their tears. " It did not seem 
meet/ says Augustine, " to celebrate that 
death with groans and lamentations. Such 
things were fit for a less blessed deathbed, 
but not for hers." 

Then, as they knelt gazing at the beloved 
face that seemed to be smiling at some un 
seen mystery, Evodius had a happy in 
spiration. Taking up the Psalter, he opened 
it at the uotli Psalm. 

[< I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my 
whole heart/ he sang softly, " in the assembly 
of the just and in the congregation." 

" Great are the works of the Lord," sang 
the others, with trembling voices, " sought 
out as they are according unto all His 
pleasure." Friends and religious women who 
had gathered near the house to pray entered 
and joined in the chant. It was the voice 



124 ST - MONICA 

of rejoicing rather than the cry of grief that 
followed that pure soul on its way to heaven. 
Augustine alone was silent, for his heart was 
breaking. 

We are but human, after all, and the sense 
of their loss fell upon them all later. That 
night Augustine lay thinking of his mother s 
life and the unselfish love of which it had 
been so full. " Thy handmaid, so pious 
towards Thee, so careful and tender towards 
us. And I let go my tears," he tells us, 
" and let them flow as much as they would. 
I wept for her, who for so many years had 
wept for me." 

They buried her, as she herself had fore 
told, in Ostia, where her sacred relics were 
found a thousand years later by Pope 
Martin V., and carried to the Church of 
St. Augustine in Rome. 

The memory of the mother to whom lie 
owed so much remained with Augustine until 
the day of his death. He loved to speak of 
her. Thirty years later, while preaching to 
his people at Hippo, he said : 

" The dead do not come back to us. If it 
were so, how often should I see my holy 



IN LIFE AND DEATH 125 

mother at my side ! She followed me over 
sea and land into far countries that she might 
not lose me for ever. God forbid that she 
should be less loving now that she is more 
blessed. Ah, no ! she would come to help 
and comfort me, for she loved me more than 
I can tell." 

The dead do not come back. But who that 
has followed the career of the great bishop 
and doctor of the Church can doubt that she 
who prayed for him so fervently on earth 
had ceased to pray for him in heaven ? 



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* Bearers 
of tbe ]faitb 

A SERIES OF LIVES OF THE SAINTS 
FOR YOUNG AND OLD 

By F. A. FORBES 

Each voliune is complete m itself, and has Four 
fa I I -pa ye Illustrations 



VOLUMES NOW READY: 

St. Ignatius Loyola With Introduction by Father 
Sydney Smith, S.J. Third Edition 

St. Golumba Apostle of Scotland. Second 
Edition 

St. Catherine of Siena. Second Edition 

St. Monica. Second Edition 

St. Paul 

St. Hugh of Lincoln 

St. Athanasius 

St. Teresa 



StatttarN&carer* of tfoc jfaiib 

A FEU PRESS NOTICES 

" It Life of St. Columbn tells the story picturesquely and 
pleasantly, and is happily illustrated." Scotsman. 

"The story of St. Columba should be familiar to the young 
people of Scotland . . . and this little book is welcome. "- 
Glasgow Herald. 

"These convenient biographies of the servants of God 
deserve to have a large sale." -Irish Catholic. 

"Though this book is meant for children, it will be read with 
pleasure by their elders." British Review. 

"It is indeed a marvel of cheapness and excellence, and \ve 
look forward to the future volumes of the series." Secondary 
Education. 

"The author of the Life . . . has cleverly emphasized those 
features of the great captain s career which are calculated to 
excite the admiration of young and generous hearts." Month. 

" The facts of the Saints lives are told with simplicity and 
with admirable directness. The series is produced in an 
artistic and attractive manner. Its appeal to the young ought 
to be great." Catholic Herald. 

Parents, teachers, and others, in search of a good book for 
the children, could not do better than invest in this little work 
St. Ignatius which is a marvel of cheapness. The saintly 
figures of Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Francis Borgia, Laynez, 
Salmeron, and others, seem to be living, moving realities as we 
proceed with the story. The book seems to us an unqualified 
success." Tablet. 

"The Lives of St. Columba, St. Paul and St Catherine of 
Siena are already announced. If in style, illustrations and 
make-up they prove as attractive as the present volume, the 
Standard- Bearer Series will doubtless meet with success. "- 
America. 



V